Vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus are underway in Asia with more than a dozen countries having started inoculations on the continent. While Australia and New Zealand kicked off their vaccination drives over the weekend, campaigns are also due to start in Mongolia, Malaysia and South Korea this week.
China and Russia, which developed their own vaccines, have managed to vaccinate a larger part of their populations than most of their regional neighbors. Yet, at a rate of 2-3 doses administered per 100 people, the campaigns are also still in the early stages. Having started vaccinations on Jan 16, India’s rollout has been somewhat slower at currently 0.8 doses administered per 100 people despite the fact that the country has also developed its own shot and is currently producing the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine under the name Covishield. Some Indians have shunned the locally developed variety Covaxin since third stage trial results are still outstanding.
Among those who are starting campaigns later are Thailand and Vietnam, which have experienced few COVID-19 cases, and the Philippines, one of the most affected countries in the region with more than 560,000 cumulative cases. 600,000 donated doses of the Chinese Sinovac variety are scheduled to arrive in the country shortly after having received emergency authorization Monday. More than 100,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses have also been allotted to the Philippines through the COVAX initiative. But these can only be delivered after the Philippines have enacted a framework for compensating those who might potentially suffer from side effects of the vaccine. The mandatory condition that will absolve Pfizer of direct responsibility highlights the bureaucratic hurdles of receiving some coronavirus vaccines.
Chinese vaccine diplomacy has given some countries a head start. The Seychelles have used China’s Sinopharm vaccine since January 11 and have now already given out 66 doses per 100 people, also using Covishield from India. The Maldives, which like the Seychelles received the Covishield vaccine as a gift, counted almost 14 doses per 100 people since starting the campaign on Feb 1, according to Our World in Data. The donation effort of the locally produced University of Oxford vaccine is also benefiting Mauritius, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, among others. China has also donated its vaccines to Cambodia, Laos and Pakistan, while Indonesia is a paying customer to the Chinese.