In reaction to the EU’s worldwide vaccine effort, one ASEAN expert claims that EU members “have their geostrategic calculations in mind” and will “likely prefer countries that are friendly or essential to European interests.” The European Union’s international vaccine effort risks lagging behind other major international powers, particularly in Southeast Asia, where the US is beefing up its vaccine donation programs to compete with China’s contributions. The remaining 25% will be provided directly by the US and “targeted to help deal with surges around the world,” according to the White House in May. “The United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries,” it continued.
The White House has identified 30 countries for direct donations, the majority of which are friendly to the United States. In Southeast Asia, these countries include the Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States; Vietnam, which has recently emerged as one of the United States’ most important geopolitical allies in the region; and Indonesia, which is traditionally pro-US.
On July 10, Vietnam received the first tranche of 2 million vaccines pledged by the US, which were shipped through the COVAX program. According to public comments made this week by Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, the EU has contributed roughly €3 billion ($3.5 billion) to the COVAX endeavor.
COVAX has delivered around 106 million vaccines to 135 countries, with the Asia Pacific area receiving more than a third of them, with Indonesia being one of the main recipients. According to Commission sources, EU member states have already offered 11 million doses for foreign donation, with roughly 9 million going through COVAX.
The European Commission’s senior spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, stated, “Vaccination is not a race against countries, but a race against time.”
“We do not feel that help should be politicized and that vaccines should not be used as a political bargaining chip,” Stano continued.
According to the EU Vaccines Strategy, member states can choose to contribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries or redirect them to other European countries.
“The decision regarding the details of the donations, such as vaccine types, number of doses and timeframes is individual for each member state, with donations being done on a voluntary basis,” Stano said.