Japan, the United States, Australia and India will consider establishing a new framework to provide COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, sources related to the Japanese government said.
Aiming to counter China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign, the four countries — known as the Quad — are expected to agree on the issue at a four-nation online summit set for April 12.
Under the new framework, three of the countries — Japan, the United States and Australia — will provide low-interest loans to developing countries in Asia and Africa, and each of those countries will use the funds to purchase vaccines made in India.
The Quad is currently coordinating the target countries and the scale of the loans.
Japan is expected to provide the loans through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).
Meanwhile, China is actively providing its own COVID-19 vaccines to Asian and African countries, aiming to expand its influence in the regions. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Feb. 8 that it had provided or planned to provide vaccine assistance to 53 countries.
The Japanese government has been providing vaccines to developing countries through its funding of the global COVAX scheme, which jointly purchases vaccines and distributes them. However, some people have questioned this method, saying that it is difficult to show the Japanese flag through such aid, compared to China’s direct method.
India is a major vaccine manufacturing country, producing about 60% of all kinds of the world’s vaccines. Regarding vaccines for COVID-19, India is producing the vaccine under license from Britain’s AstraZeneca PLC. It has also succeeded in developing its domestic vaccine product and is providing it to other countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt and South Africa.
Japan, the United States and Australia have been emphasizing cooperation with India to counter China, but India itself is cautious about joining the encircling net against China because of its traditional neutral diplomacy.
The use of Indian-made vaccines in the Quad framework “is also aimed at attracting India to the side of Japan, the United States and Australia,” a senior Japanese official said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The two leaders are believed to have discussed cooperation in providing vaccines to developing countries.
In addition, Japan will provide emergency grant aid of about $41 million (about ¥4.5 billion) to a total of 25 countries in Asia and other regions through international organizations to build facilities for transporting and storing the COVID-19 vaccine at low temperatures, the Japanese government announced on Tuesday.
Japan would like to highlight its contribution by helping to promote the provision of vaccines to developing countries because it does not have its own domestically produced vaccines.