A year into the pandemic, the global demand for vaccines is rising, and countries in the Middle East and North Africa are rushing to ensure their populations are guaranteed access to the ever-growing selection of Covid-19 vaccines. However, while there is a shared aim to vaccinate across the region, it is evident that the ability to carry out mass Covid-19 vaccination campaigns varies extensively between countries. Wealthier states, with strong international connections, have been able to acquire vaccines early-on, therefore allowing them to push ahead with mass immunization plans. Israel and the Gulf states, for example, have already begun their campaigns, and have managed to vaccinate large portions of their populations. On the other hand, low- and middle- income economies are not as well equipped and must rely on international support, through programs such as COVAX, to gain access to affordable vaccines. Many of these countries are also home to a large number of vulnerable groups, such as refugees, migrants and displaced people. Inevitably, the responsibility to provide and administer vaccines to these communities in addition to the national population adds an additional level of complexity, further delaying local vaccination programmes. In this intricate context, vaccine diplomacy emerges as an essential tool for global and regional power projection, as manufacturers like China and Russia exploit their production to forge stronger partnerships with countries in the MENA region, including with long-time U.S. and European allies.
Yoko Akasaka, Senior Situation Coordinator, MENA Regional Office, UNHCR
Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO
Eckart Woertz, Director, GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies
Matteo Villa, Research Fellow, ISPI
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