The United States is under increasing pressure to share Covid-19 vaccine doses with less wealthy nations, as advocates call for prevention of an emerging “vaccine apartheid” and point to the strategic and diplomatic importance of drug sharing. essential.
Calls to share vaccine doses grew louder this week after Biden’s administration Announced an additional purchase of 100 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson. The US government has now purchased enough doses of vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to vaccinate 500 million people, nearly the entire double-eligible population.
The administration also has the rights to 100 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine has not been licensed in the US, but is licensed for use in other parts of the world. AstraZeneca called on the United States to “seriously consider” donating the vaccines elsewhere, a company spokesman said.
“I’m doing this because, in this wartime effort, we need maximum flexibility,” Biden said in a White House briefing announcing the purchase this week. “There is always the possibility that we will encounter unexpected challenges.”
On Friday, Biden and the leaders of Japan, Australia and India, an informal working group known as Quad, announced that they would work to increase manufacturing capacity, with the goal of shipping 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to countries. Asia-Pacific islands by 2022.
But officials in the Biden administration have continued to resist shipping stored vaccine doses overseas, saying it’s part of a plan to be “over-prepared and over-stocked” in case emerging Covid-19 variants or immunity waning require booster injections.
“We want to be part of the worldwide effort to vaccinate people around the world in a variety of countries,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, citing the $ 2 billion commitment to Covax, the global effort to share Vaccines for COVID-19.
However, he said that the “first priority and focus of the president is to ensure that the American people are vaccinated.” And once we’re at that point, we’ll have a discussion about what’s next. “
The administration strategy is also a protection against potential manufacturing interruptions and could provide a supply of vaccines for children, as long as clinical trials show that they are safe for use in children under 16 years of age.
The Biden administration intends to lift all vaccine eligibility requirements by May 1 and hopes to vaccinate all 267 million eligible Americans for the July 4 holiday. More than 530,000 Americans have died after contracting the virus, a number the administration often cites when defending its reliance on the launch of the vaccine.
“As I told you before, I carry a card in my pocket with the number of Americans who have died from Covid to date,” Biden said in a primetime address Thursday. “It’s at the end of my schedule. As of now, the total deaths in America: 527,726. That’s more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined. “
However, countries like China and Russia have agreed to share vaccines to gain a strategic advantage. China’s vaccine makers have promised 500 million doses to 45 countries, according to an Associated Press tally.
“It is possible that others who are more willing to share will outpace us in the competition, even if they do so for cynical reasons,” Ivo H Daalder, former NATO ambassador and president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told the New York Times. “I think countries are going to remember who was there for us when we needed them.”
TO recent analysis The World Bank found that 82% of high-income countries have started vaccinating, compared with 3% of low-income countries. A January forecast by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that middle-income countries will likely mass vaccinate their populations by the end of 2022, but 84 of the world’s poorest nations likely won’t complete mass vaccination campaigns until at least 2024. , and they may never achieve herd immunity. .
“It’s going to define the global economy, the global political landscape, travel, pretty much everything,” said Agathe Demarais, the unit’s forecasting director, at the time the report was released.
Advocates have described the gulf in access to vaccines between rich and poor countries as a potential “apartheid vaccine”. Many have Also he said failure to share vaccines threatens to repeat the failures of the HIV / AIDS epidemic.
“A” me first “approach may serve short-term political interests, but it is counterproductive and it will lead to a protracted recovery, and trade and travel will continue to suffer, ”wrote Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in The Guardian.
“The threat is clear: as long as the virus spreads anywhere, it has more opportunities to mutate and potentially undermine the effectiveness of vaccines everywhere. We could finish back where we started, ”he said.
Ghebreyesus is among advocates who have called on pharmaceutical companies to waive intellectual property rights granted by the World Trade Organization. The hope is that the temporary waiver of patents will allow for the manufacture of broad-based vaccines.
The petition would waive certain rights guaranteed by what is called the TRIPS agreement. The matter is before the WTO, which is expected to debate the petition twice in upcoming April meetings. The petition is largely supported by low-income countries and is opposed by high-income countries.
“We must make sure that in the end we deliver,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the WTO. In this way, he said, “the millions of people who await us with great expectation know that we are working on concrete solutions.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism