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China’s Covid-19 Vaccine Diplomacy Boosts Its Influence in Europe

Some small European governments are turning to China for Covid-19 vaccines as European Union procurement stumbles and Western vaccine makers’ production hiccups hamper the continent’s fight against the pandemic.

The trend could increase China’s influence in the region as it campaigns to present itself as a reliable ally in fighting the coronavirus that was first detected on its soil.

The European Union, which buys vaccines on behalf of its 27 member states, has authorized three shots developed in Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. But the bloc was slow to sign contracts and authorize the shots, while manufacturers have struggled to deliver the doses promised. Shortages have been even worse in non-EU countries in Europe.

So far, it is mainly small nations on the bloc’s margins that have turned to Beijing for help. Yet as voters’ frustrations mount, larger members are now considering China’s two vaccines and another developed in Russia.

On Jan. 31, German Health Minister Jens Spahn called on the EU to approve the shot made by China’s Sinopharm Group if it were found to be safe and effective. Then, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the company should manufacture its shots in his country.

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