What used to be a race to produce an atomic bomb, then a race in space to launch satellites, the first man, a trip to the Moon, then a long arms race, today is a race to find a vaccine against Covid 19. No less exciting or less important for primacy in global political and economic relations. The first to find the vaccine will not necessarily be the winner. The winner will be the one who is the first to convince the world that his vaccine is effective and safe, and at the same time (financially) available to millions of people. The champion will be the one that people will trust, because the stakes are the highest that can exist – the life of each of us.
The news that they have already found the vaccine or that they are in the final phase of testing has so far been published by many of the biggest – the British, Chinese, Russians, and it is being searched for by dozens of scientific research institutes around the world. Everything says that we will soon be able to choose from a more or less wide range of whose therapy we will apply. What will we be guided by during that choice, and it will be vital for millions of our people? Will it be a political decision, based on the political interests of our country, or will we choose the healthiest option, whoever it comes from?
It may be cruel, but even those who offer us the vaccine will do so for political motives, not just health and commercial ones. From March onwards, covid diplomacy is perhaps the only diplomatic branch in the world. And it won’t end until billions of people are vaccinated against Corona.
How are things with the invention of the vaccine now? The team from the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford found the vaccine, they say it is effective, and in order to prove it unequivocally, the head of the team, Professor Sarah Catherine Gilbert, gave the first doses to her children, 21-year-old twins! And in China, they claim to be one step closer to success. Researchers from the laboratory Cansino Biologics have received permission for testing on humans, and the experiment will be performed in the ranks of the Chinese army. It is similar in Russia, insofar as the army (Ministry of Defense) manages the research and testing, which is allegedly in the final phase.
It won’t be long, and Serbia will be faced with the choice of whose vaccine it will buy and give to its population. There is no doubt now that we will have a choice and that is a great circumstance. But that choice will not be easy at all. Will we be guided by the belief that the vaccine that the inventor tested on his own children is good, investing in its credibility the most valuable thing he has, or will we follow the logic of brotherhood, “steel friendship” or some similar non-medical reason. There will certainly be pressures, not only from the political, but also from the economic level, because the anti-covid vaccine will soon be something like water in the desert. What you can’t do without.
Serbia will therefore be in a position to buy from the one it trusts the most and will have to answer the question – does it trust the world’s most reputable (non-state) laboratories, or does it trust strict, militaristic state systems, which like to keep everything in their hands? Does it believe in the test in which the highest possible price is invested, or does it trust the non-transparent institutions of the East, which are largely on the “dock” for hiding information about the epidemic and covering up its outbreak?
Serbia already had experience with Chinese covid diplomacy, when it ecstatically welcomed the first contingent of aid, while the EU kept the door closed for the export of health material. That experience was not good for Serbia’s image in the world, and it soon became clear that incomparably higher and better aid came from the other side, primarily from Europe, so in relation to support from the EU and Norway, for example, Chinese aid remained minor… As then, in March, China will now, through vaccine diplomacy, once again seek to exert propaganda influence in small and poor countries, most certainly in Serbia. There are reasons for that, Serbia considers it a great friend, supports its policy in world forums and thus shows in action that it cares about good relations.
Along with Belarus and Russia, Serbia is the only European country that supported a declaration before the UN in favor of China, which treats the abuse of the Uyghur minority in the west of that country as a fight against terrorism and extremists. In the company of supporters, Serbia stands with Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela… Serbia, unlike the EU it aspires to, also supported the new Chinese law, which violates the current status of Hong Kong. With the arrival of the vaccine, will Serbia’s decisions follow the same political line of support for a great friend? Or, it will still follow the requirements of health and quality. And at the same time, we must know that Great Britain, for example, threw 200 Chinese respirators because they were defective and life-threatening, and that Spain and France also had to get rid of large quantities of medical equipment from China, because it was unusable… If gloves or protective suits were useless, why would we believe the vaccine is good?
The choice of vaccine will certainly be a political choice, not just a health one. But, the price for a possibly bad choice will not only be someone’s criticism, and also the gradual self-isolation of Serbia from the countries whose partnership it strives for, but it will concern the health of each of us. In that choice, decision-makers must keep in mind that neither in the June 21 elections nor in any previous elections in the last two decades did citizens support a return to the 1990s, when we were truly isolated from the rest of the world, expecting help in vain from “forces” from the East.