With lofty promises set by the Biden administration to have every American eligible for the coronavirus vaccine by May 1st, America exceeds nearly every other nation in both aggressiveness and efficiency of its vaccine initiative. Because America’s vaccine initiative has been far more successful than most other developed nations, an obvious question emerges regarding America’s role in defeating the pandemic globally. In no small part to the rapid development of the vaccine and an impressive distribution effort, America will eventually eliminate COVID-19 from day-to-day life, likely sooner rather than later. However, the sheer complexity and unavoidable adversity of attempting to vaccinate a nation of hundreds of millions prevent America from generously shipping vaccines overseas. If America seeks to help rid the world of the global scourge of the coronavirus while sustaining its vaccine initiative, the most effective aid will come from its wallet.
Currently, the Biden administration has secured hundreds of millions of doses after a recent deal with pharmaceutical giant Merck to manufacture another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine. Because of this, America is “on track” to vaccinate every adult in America by the end of May, according to President Biden. Even with such a bold vaccination initiative, only 13% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Since only authorized for emergency use, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine won’t hit 100 million doses until the end of June. Pfizer and Moderna have promised to ship enough doses to vaccinate only 200 million Americans by the end of May, meaning the pandemic likely could only end with Johnson & Johnson. With millions patiently awaiting eligibility, America still has a long road ahead of itself for complete inoculation.
But we also cannot callously turn a blind eye to the desperation of poorer nations still buckling under the pandemic, particularly in African and Middle Eastern countries. Lebanon, which is suffering from precipitous financial collapse fueled by what is widely considered a corrupt ruling class, has a meager supply of two million doses, only enough to cover roughly 20% of their population despite leading the Arab world in cases per million, according to CNN. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, warned BBC that the vaccines provided by the current international supply “will not get the pandemic out” of the continent.
Therefore, America would have to bear an exceptional injustice by embracing total isolationism. But, facing such urgency on so many fronts, Americas’ resources would be best spent towards the funding of global vaccine initiatives, specifically COVAX. Co-led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the World Health Organization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, COVAX aimed to supply middle and low-income nations with vaccines, dispersing the immense strain of purchasing mass amounts of vaccines onto more sources.
However, the project remains seriously underfunded and undersupplied, shouldering poorer countries with administrative costs while also failing to equip these countries with the knowledge or infrastructure to produce their own vaccines. Delivery of vaccines alone will cost two billion dollars for 2021 and, according to Benjamin Schreiber, UNICEF’s deputy chief for global immunization program and COVAX coordinator, there’s “very little operational funding” going to nations from COVAX.
Sending aid to other nations through COVAX would not only lead to supporting vaccination initiatives in poorer nations but could also allow the global project to pursue more ambitious measures to end the coronavirus pandemic. While money doesn’t smooth out all the kinks within COVAX, funding would help expedite the delivery of vaccines and lessen the blow of administrative costs of an enhanced delivery speed. As reported by Duke University, COVAX purchased 1.1 billion doses, but data from GAVI shows COVAX has only shipped out 30 million doses as of March 20th.
Since other advanced nations like Russia and China developed their own vaccines, funding from the United States frees up COVAX to spread out the incredible burden of vaccinating low-income countries even further. As America wrestles itself out of the pandemic, no form of aid could be as direct and versatile as sending money to global vaccination initiatives.