So far millions of Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. Vaccine production is ramping up quickly, and soon there may be enough vaccines for everyone who wants one. Geopolitical expert James Feldkamp argues that once the United States gets its own house in order, there will be a tremendous opportunity for Americans to exercise soft power while saving countless lives.
“The United States has a tremendous capacity to produce vaccines, and in the not so distant future, we’ll be able to produce more vaccines than we need,” James Feldkamp points out. “Once we reach that point, we can distribute vaccines to other countries. Not only will this save lives, but it could help the United States gain political capital.”
The United States is now producing millions of vaccines per day. Meanwhile, much of Europe has struggled with vaccine production and distribution. Canada too is falling behind. Across Latin America, Africa, and other regions of the world, vaccines are hard to come by.
China and Russia are already engaging in “vaccine diplomacy.” Strict lockdowns helped China bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control early on, while Russia has long been among the world’s leaders in medicine and healthcare. By distributing vaccines, China and Russia can build relations with other countries.
“Russia, China, and other countries aren’t distributing vaccines just for the sake of it,” James Feldkamp says. “They also want to strengthen relationships with other countries and to build up political capital. This is a smart tactic for Russia, China, and yes, the United States.”
The United States too can build relationships through vaccine diplomacy. Many countries simply lack the vaccine production capacity to meet their needs. By helping countries fight the pandemic, the United States may improve public perceptions and goodwill.
Distributing vaccines will provide many benefits outside of diplomacy and geopolitics. Saving lives is perhaps the most important end result, and vaccinations can save lives now and in the future. Particularly problematic is the risk that the COVID-19 virus could evolve to reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines.
“The longer the virus circulates, the more chances it has to evolve,” James Feldkamp says. “The science is complex, and we need to let medical experts do their job, but by bringing the pandemic under control, we can reduce both immediate and long-term threats stemming from the virus.”
If the virus does evolve and vaccine effectiveness decreases, the United States may have to confront another deadly and disruptive wave of infections. Lockdowns and other measures may once again have to be put in place. Through vaccinations both domestically and globally, the United States may be able to reduce the risks of such a second wave.