Patients wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccine in Belgrade, Serbia (Image: EPA/Andrej Cukic)

This is part one in a series.

The ship has sailed on vaccine equity. Rich countries have preordered enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their populations multiple times. The World Health Organisation’s vision of equal access through COVAX is at risk of failing and mass immunisation in low-income countries isn’t likely until 2024 -- if at all.

Vaccine nationalism -- where countries put their populations first, time and time again -- is being met with vaccine diplomacy, with China stepping up as a seemingly charitable friend.