The White House defended its first COVID-19 vaccination strategy in America this week. She described them as justified because of the terrible outbreak in the country and promised to exchange shots after the Americans were protected.
World leaders and residents of other countries are increasingly critical of the United States and other wealthy nations for buying up most of the world’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, has particularly condemned that rich countries are directly responsible for the deaths of people at high risk in low and middle income countries.
“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people with a low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, the elderly and other high-risk groups in other countries,” he said at a press conference Monday.
As long as the pandemic gets out of hand somewhere, variations can emerge that pose risks to those who have been infected or vaccinated. “The unequal distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It is also economically and epidemiologically self-destructive,” said Tedros said.
Tracking the Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines by State:How many people were vaccinated in the United States?
Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor on COVID-19 Response, defended the Biden government’s position at a press conference on Wednesday.
“The president has stated that his top priority is making sure we make vaccination a priority in this country. We have suffered over 540,000 deaths – more than anywhere else in the world,” said Slavitt. “He came into office with this seriousness to make sure we could make this country safe again. We got the vaccine supplies, the vaccination centers and the vaccines increased.”
Bringing the U.S. pandemic under control will require a global effort, Slavitt agreed, and the administration is focused on returning to global health leadership, a role the Trump administration has rejected.
The Biden government has invested $ 4 billion in providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. promised to bring 4 million doses of vaccine to Mexico and Canada; and helps build manufacturing capacity around the world.
“Having dealt with the really difficult situation in our own country with over 535,000 deaths, we will obviously have a vaccine surplus in the future,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said at the press conference on Wednesday. “And there is certainly a consideration for making this vaccine available to countries that need it.”
By the end of May, enough COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available in the US to protect all adults. More vaccines will be available later in the year when regulators allow children to be vaccinated. The country will have roughly twice the number of doses it will need to vaccinate its entire population by the end of summer or early fall if the top five COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers honor their contractual obligations to the government.
Slavitt and others in the administration have refused to go into detail about what could be done with this excess vaccine until it actually occurs and the needs of Americans are met. Demand still far exceeds supply, and a surplus will not exist until millions more cans are produced.
In the US, three vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in the US. Two more – one from AstraZeneca-Oxford University and one from Novavax – are expected to seek approval this spring.
Last year, the Trump administration pre-purchased 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 100 million each from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, J&J and Novavax to be dispensed after the vaccines are approved. The Biden government, which took office on Jan. 20, has purchased an additional 200 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
As of Wednesday, nearly 170 million doses of the three approved vaccines had been dispensed.
“It is not possible for any country to fight this pandemic on its own. The world is too interconnected,” said Chris Elias, president for global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Elias said COVAX, a global initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, “will help all countries that have equal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines to end the pandemic and move towards a more just world bring to.”
Jointly organized by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization, COVAX has delivered vaccines to 50 countries and promises to vaccinate 20% of the population of low and middle income countries by the end of the year.
Initial adoption has been slow and production problems and high infection rates in India, where many of these cans are made, will slow efforts even further, COVAX announced Thursday.
Medical ethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan said in an interview that it was “morally correct” for the United States to look after its own first. He compared it to the instructions on every airplane to “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others”.
WHO’s Tedros praised South Korea for waiting for its turn rather than using its wealth to skip the line. Caplan, a professor of bioethics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City, said it was natural for countries to embrace “vaccine nationalism.”
“They will first stabilize their own country,” he said. “I think that’s morally correct. Get people out, get your economy going. Back to school. Get stable. Then worry about sharing.”
Dr. Luciana Borio, vice president of vaccine developer In-Q-Tel and former acting chief scientist of the Foof and Drug Administration, disagrees. She said the United States should allocate some of its vaccines to low- and middle-income countries when firing shots at its own people, rather than waiting for a surplus.
“In some countries, it is not right that health care workers do not have access to vaccines,” Borio, a member of the COVID-19 vaccine analysis team of independent experts, said Thursday.
“It won’t be enough for those who want more and it will be too much for those who don’t want us to give,” she said, “but I think that’s the right approach.”
Contact Karen Weintraub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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