UK aid logo. Sourced: DFID/Rich Taylor (via Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)
International Affairs

Spearheading Vaccine Diplomacy

The Vaccine rollout has shown the best of British. Being the first country to administer a dose outside of clinical trials was an outstanding feat in itself but to continue the momentum of the rollout with such speed and efficiency has been such a remarkable effort, writes Tom-Henry Jones.

Now I believe the UK should continue the momentum from its domestic rollout, to employ vaccine diplomacy across the globe under the banner of Global Britain.

In recent weeks and months, the term vaccine diplomacy has become somewhat of a dirty word. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said last week that ‘we don’t support vaccine diplomacy, let alone blackmail’. Clearly this was in response to such tactics used by China and Russia globally, yet I see no wrong in using vaccines in a form of diplomacy. 

China may be offering a direct trade of vaccines for influence which is clearly unfair and an abuse of power. But the UK as part of the WHO Covax alliance will be able to fairly supply millions of doses worldwide to deprived nations. 

The Oxford Astra-Zeneca jab should be right at the heart of Britain’s vaccine diplomacy. Although largely manufactured in India, the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine was developed and created in the UK, and this should be a fact that the Government should be shout loud about.

Providing millions of doses is in itself is a fantastic form of diplomacy but it should be part of a wider theme of showing off British research and development. Similar to the development of railways and other feats of engineering shared across the globe at the height of the industrial revolution, our international affairs now need to be focussed on intrinsically linking the Oxford AZ jab to British excellence. 

The Governments position on Global Britain fits perfectly with this theme, ‘we need to use government assets more cohesively and efficiently to maintain our global standing. Global Britain is about reinvesting in our relationships, championing the rules-based international order and demonstrating that the UK is open, outward-looking and confident on the world stage.’ 

Clearly, the vaccine offers the perfect opportunity to highlight the best of British and to reignite our international relationships in the post-Brexit world. 

To state that the vaccine rollout internationally shouldn’t be politicised is just naïve. Just look at how the Government has politicised it domestically. The Prime Minister and the rest of the cabinet can hardly go a few words without mentioning ‘our fantastic vaccine rollout’. This is no criticism; this is how it should be both at home and abroad. 

The sluggishness of the EU rollout further highlights how the international vaccine rollout provides a unique opportunity to show off Global Britain. While I am annoyed and aggrieved at the cut in the foreign aid budget, the UK must make the most of the opportunity the vaccine provides to extend our diplomatic relations across the Globe. The vacuum that will be left by the foreign aid is dangerous, although not a fair or clever substitute, the vacuum must be negated with vaccine diplomacy. 

At the very heart of this plan the UK must be generous. The bigger the offer the better. The UK must grasp vaccine diplomacy with both hands, this is an international chance we cannot afford to miss. 


Tom-Henry Jones is a graduate from Cardiff University in Political Communications and now works for Alun Cairns MP.