Asian governments are needlessly hampering vaccination drives

Asian governments are needlessly hampering vaccination drives

Nationalism and geopolitics, among other things, are slowing inoculations

Indonesia’s president took the first shot. A doctor with trembling hands jabbed Joko Widodo on live television on January 13th, just two days after the national regulator approved the vaccine. India followed soon after, poking nearly 200,000 people on January 16th, starting with Manish Kumar, a cleaner at a hospital in Delhi. But it was the Philippines, where the first shipment of vaccines is not due until late February, that stole a march over its bigger neighbours. Members of the Presidential Security Group, an elite unit, inoculated themselves with smuggled, unlicensed shots as far back as September—“so that the president will be safe,” the squad’s commander said.

Few countries have handled vaccine procurement as shambolically as the Philippines, which dithered over signing a deal with Pfizer, an American firm, and ended up scrambling to secure shots from Sinovac, a Chinese one, at what many suspect are inflated prices. But even countries with more competent leaders have made decisions that appear to prioritise factors other than public health in their vaccine roll-out, eroding public faith in the process.