The president urged other nations to follow the United States’ lead and increase their own donations, calling it “an all-hands-on-deck crisis.”
The European Union has committed 500 million doses and pledged to work with the U.S. to address supply chain challenges. India also said recently that it would again export vaccines after halting shipments earlier this year when the country faced a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.
Even as the coronavirus crisis continues, public health officials are talking about how to prepare for the next pandemic.
“Our world is not fully prepared to prevent, to detect and to respond to future biological threats,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday.
She announced that the U.S. would contribute $250 million to a new international effort designed to detect and respond to outbreaks, and another $850 million could be made available if Congress approves the proposal. The World Bank is aiming to collect $10 billion total.
The U.S. has been under pressure to expand its assistance to other countries, especially as administration officials prepare to make booster shots available this year — meaning some Americans will probably receive three doses when many people in poor countries haven’t received one.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the uneven vaccination distribution is “a moral indictment of the state of our world.” More than 70% of the 5.7 billion vaccine doses administrated globally have gone to just 10 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Dr. William Parker, a medical ethicist and assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago, said shipping doses overseas “would do far more good” in terms of saving lives.
A panel that advises the Food and Drug Administration last week rejected a plan that would have made booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine available to most Americans, in part because it was unclear how the third dose would substantially contribute to controlling the pandemic. The panel backed giving extra shots to those over the age of 65 or who are immunocompromised.
Giving a healthy adult a booster to “prevent cold, mild or asymptomatic infections at the expense of costing someone in a low-income country their life to me seems unethical,” Parker said.