Chinese Sinovac jab to arrive in Malaysia

A bulk delivery of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Malaysia today. Malaysia, which has seen a recent

Malayasia SINOVAC

Photo: Malaysian Information Department/Muzzafar Kasim via Reuters

A bulk delivery of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Malaysia today.

Malaysia, which has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, has implemented a rapid vaccination program for its approximately 32 million citizens. Malaysia has officially recorded 280,272 cases of COVID-19 infections and 1,051 deaths thus far and pandemic-related lockdown measures have caused Malaysia’s economy to sink to its lowest point in 20 years. In planning to inoculate 80% of its population by 2022, the government has received over 300,000 doses from both Pfizer and BioNTech. The additional doses from Sinovac Biotech are arriving today in anticipation of Wednesday’s national vaccine rollout.

COVID-19 vaccines have become a diplomatic tool in the arsenal of countries like China and the US as they vie for soft power influence and quid pro quo arrangements. For Malaysia to realise its vaccination plans, Kuala Lumpur may accept increased infrastructure development cooperation with Beijing in exchange for guaranteed vaccine access. China will likely press for completion of the Malaysia East Coast Rail Line project, which has had a series of starts and stops. Expect China to continue to pursue vaccine diplomacy to grow its sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, and it will likely turn its attention to countries like Indonesia where it has strategic plans for its Belt and Road Initiative.

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