Role of vaccine science diplomacy in low-middle-income countries for eradicating the vaccine-preventable diseases: Targeting the "LAST MILE".J Family Med Prim Care. 2021 Aug; 10(8):2739-2744.JF
The meaning of "vaccine diplomacy (VD)" is defined as "the use of vaccines to increase a country's diplomatic relations and influence over other nations." The golden era of vaccine science diplomacy started during the time of Cold War between the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) with the development of a prototype of oral polio vaccine by the US Scientist Dr Albert Sabin working along with his Soviet counterparts. The foundation stone was already laid down by Edward Jenner when he shared his technique of the smallpox vaccine with other major countries to curb the spread of smallpox. Eventually, such a step led to the eradication of such a deadly disease. Only time has changed, not the tide. Even today, vaccines continue to remain as one of the important tools for achieving Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) and other targets in developing countries like India. During the wake of the Corona Virus Diseases-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, India's role in developing its vaccine science diplomacy has been a point of attraction. The phase-3 trial of Covaxin being developed by Bharat Biotech started in Lucknow and Gorakhpur in October 2020, and it is widely considered as the forerunner for the Indian vaccine market. As per the Union Health Ministry of India- "The Union Government is working on at least five distinct ways, ranging from free vaccines to guaranteed supply, in which it can help its immediate neighbours and countries in West Asia, Africa and even Latin America-officials familiar with the plan said on conditions of anonymity. The idea is to leverage the country's standing as the world's vaccine factory to merge diplomatic ties. Historically, it is observed that by the development and introduction of newer vaccines from time to time, many dismaying hurdles to vaccine science diplomacy (VSD) arise from ongoing wars and political instability. The current scenario is that both VSD and VD are at crossroads, and there is a possibility of getting a good direction if we make a piggyback policy approach of vaccine diplomacy along with the foreign policy. The lessons learned from the past must be followed now and, in the future, to make a better world for all. We acknowledge that the COVID-19 episode has again highlighted the dire need for VSD, and we assume that not only COVID-19 but in future, emerging and re-emerging diseases will occur so we have to prepare ourselves for combatting those future emerging and re-emerging diseases.