Efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia can be described in the oxymoron “small but mighty.” This tiny nation is typically overshadowed by its neighboring states, Russia and China. However, in the event of a pandemic, the position as a small country enclosed by the borders of the world’s two largest vaccine manufacturers can be extremely valuable. Mongolia has benefited greatly from its close ties with its neighbors, powerful forces determined to aid their partners through vaccine diplomacy. As a result of these vaccination efforts, Mongolia hopes to be free of COVID-19 sometime around the Mongolian summer of 2021.
Mongolia has a sufficient number of vaccines to properly ensure protection within the adult population, primarily due to its advantageous location between China and Russia. The relationship between Mongolia and China dates back to the 1940s when the countries signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance. As for Mongolia and Russia, both nations signed the Russo-Mongolian Agreement back in 1912, which gives both countries major commercial advantages. Through these foreign policy agreements, toward the end of April 2021, Mongolia had 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and 20,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia.
Additionally, on March 24, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $1.2 million to assist the Mongolian government in its COVID-19 response, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. USAID is committed to assisting efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia by strengthening the country’s disease-fighting capabilities. USAID also supports other critical areas such as “infection prevention and control, preparing laboratory systems for large-scale testing” and public communication on personal preventative measures. Due to aid from Russia, China, the United States and other foreign assistance, as of May 6, 2021, Mongolia has administered more than 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccination Diplomacy and Foreign Policy
The worldwide pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of a nation’s foreign policy and what is made possible through efforts of foreign and domestic relations. Mongolia is reaping the benefits of vaccination diplomacy by relying on its well-established foreign policy framework. Mongolia’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative includes COVAX, an international effort aimed at ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the world.
Specifically, Mongolia’s foreign minister, Battsetseg Batmunkh, has maintained excellent relationships with Mongolia’s allies. For instance, the U.S. and Mongolia have been in regular contact on how the United States, as a key ally, can help Mongolia tackle COVID-19. Additionally, On February 24, 2021, Batmunkh expressed deep gratitude to the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, for China’s generous assistance in providing resources to Mongolia to fight COVID-19. Batmunkh also adds that the China-Mongolia relationship sets a good example of how nations around the world can empower one another in the face of adversity.
The Mongolian government is so optimistic about the country’s vaccination rollout that Mongolia is promising citizens a summer free from COVID-19. With a fully vaccinated population of 53.4% as of June 1, 2021, Mongolia is without a doubt at the forefront of the worldwide effort to safeguard communities against COVID-19.
– Anna Lovelace