Mongolia has plenty of vaccines as countries scramble for doses.

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At a time when most countries are scrambling for coronavirus vaccines, Mongolia already has enough to fully vaccinate more than half its citizens, in large part thanks to deals with both China and Russia.

Officials are so confident about the nation’s vaccine riches that they are promising citizens a “Covid-free summer.”

Mongolia’s success in procuring so many doses within months is a big victory for a low-income, developing nation. Many poor countries have been waiting in line for shots, hoping for the best. But Mongolia, using its status as a small geopolitical player between Russia and China, was able to snap up doses at a clip similar to that of much wealthier countries.

Mongolia has a population not much bigger than Chicago’s. The small democratic nation is used to living in the shadows of Russia and China, which often treat it as a geopolitical pawn.

But during a pandemic, being a small nation sandwiched between two vaccine makers with global ambitions can have advantages.

“It speaks to the Mongolian ability to play to the two great powers and maximize their benefits even while they are on this tightrope between these two countries,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels.

It is also a win for China and Russia, which have extensive resource interests in Mongolia and ambitions to appear to play a role in ending the pandemic, even when much of the world has expressed deep skepticism over their homegrown vaccines.

In other news from around the globe:

  • The Parliament of Ukraine named a new health minister, who promised to speed up vaccinations, including by trying to manufacture vaccine domestically, Reuters reported. Viktor Lyashko, previously a deputy health minister, was promoted on Thursday to replace Maksym Stepanov, who was fired this week after Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused him of failing to supply vaccines quickly enough.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the period of time the Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine can be refrigerated. The agency now says undiluted and thawed vaccines can be stored for up to 30 days, rather than up to five, as before. The European Medicines Agency announced a similar recommendation earlier in the week.

  • Prince William, the second in line to the throne of Britain, said on Thursday that he had received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. He shared a photo on social media of the injection at the Science Museum in London on Tuesday, thanking everyone involved in the country’s vaccination program. The prince is 38, part of an age group that became eligible to book inoculations last week. Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother, was vaccinated in January and his father, Prince Charles, received a first dose in February.

  • The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, signed a contract for an additional 1.8 billion doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to be delivered between December 2021 and 2023, the commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced Thursday. The deal will allow member countries to buy 900 million doses, including booster shots to prolong immunity, as well as possible new vaccines targeting emerging variants of the coronavirus, with an option to purchase additional 900 million in coming years.

Anna Schaverien, Monika Pronczuk and Kaly Soto contributed reporting.



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