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The pandemic has vastly exacerbated the global north-south divide, with wealthy Western states moving steadily toward herd immunity while a majority of Africa, Asia, and Latin America wait for vaccines to trickle down. Only a small number of countries produce their own coronavirus vaccines, but the rest of the world depends on them for their immunizations. This raises the specter of a new geopolitical arrangement—one in which patron-client relationships are determined by the asymmetry in vaccine supply versus demand.

Already, there are strong indications that vaccine have-nots are vulnerable to diplomatic coercion and enticement. Russia and China have begun supplying vaccines in exchange for favorable foreign-policy concessions, as has Israel. Western countries,…

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