The global response to Covid-19 precipitated the most significant global public policy response to a pandemic ever. The rapid development of vaccines against the virus raised the possibility of saving countless lives and ending the acute phase of the pandemic. Nevertheless, numerous countervailing forces pushed the world towards an unequal distribution that favored wealthy countries. This Capstone focused on vaccine diplomacy and how state actors seek to increase influence, burnish international reputations, or extract concessions. This project also described how similar behavior also extended to countries shut out of the global marketplace and who sought, through diplomatic efforts, to secure needed vaccine supplies.
The team paid particular attention to vaccine donations, which dwarfed in comparison doses acquired through purchase deals with manufacturers. Moreover, a key finding was that the rapid evolution of the pandemic and shifting domestic priorities made it difficult for countries to meaningfully leverage doses as foreign policy tools. Vaccine diplomacy is still relevant as states weigh their responsibilities to achieve global vaccine equity and end the pandemic. Furthermore, vaccine hesitancy and nationalism, misinformation, and distribution challenges have negatively impacted the world’s ability to get shots into peoples’ arms. The team’s recommendations aimed at building resilience in the global health governance system by investing in and improving public health delivery systems. In addition, decentralize vaccination regulatory authority and increase global investment in public health infrastructure. Most importantly, the team called manufacturers to diversify the geographic distribution and develop local and regional production capacity, which is crucial to achieving a more balanced system.