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By Joseph Kim

Junior, GWU

The United States is known for its charitable giving to other nations. Most of that comes through various forms of aid, both from domestic and NGO channels. While this would come without much issue most of the time, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted massive issues in the United States that must be addressed. With the overcrowding of hospitals, lack of healthcare accessibility, and the financial burden of assisting foreign nations due to a slow economy, the United States must prioritize domestic issues before supplying vaccines to developing countries. 


In the past year, US hospitals were overwhelmed due to a large number of severe COVID-19 cases. This was combined with the lack of traditional and ICU hospital beds.  Because of this, other illnesses — which could easily be treated — became more difficult to treat as there were fewer resources to treat patients. As a result, approximately 15,571 Americans died due to COVID-19. Additionally, the issue of healthcare accessibility is a major concern to many Americans. In 2018, 27.5 million Americans did not have health insurance, with a further 38 million Americans having inadequate healthcare coverage. Typically, insurance covers most vaccinations free of charge. However, for those who do not have health insurance, vaccinations can cost more than $200. Although the COVID-19 vaccine is rather inexpensive compared to other vaccines, COVID-19 has brought financial insecurities to even modest-income earning American families. 


Furthermore, providing vaccines to Americans first allows the US to reignite its economy and allow Americans to go back to work. As the US economy has stalled over the past year, many Americans have either been furloughed, laid off, or have had to close their small businesses. Small business revenue decreased nearly twenty percent from January to September 2020. Unemployment rates reached a peak of 14.8 percent in April of 2020. As the COVID-19 stimulus checks are not enough to cover America’s needs,  a massive public vaccination campaign prioritizing Americans is a must. With promising efficacy rates coming from the vaccine producers and more vaccines under review for approval, we must ensure that Americans can afford and access the vaccine before developing nations.


Furthermore, aid distributed to foreign nations comes directly out of the taxpayer’s pocket. According to Brookings, in the 2019 fiscal year, $39.2 billion was spent on foreign aid, which equates to less than one percent of the federal budget. Although this may seem to be a minimal cost, one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine costs $19.50 or $39 for a full dose. To fully vaccinate 300 million Americans, the cost of developing the vaccines was approximately $11.5 billion, or approximately thirty percent of the foreign aid budget in 2019. Although the cost of the vaccine varies from producer to producer, currently the US has purchased doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca spending additional billions to get doses of the vaccine. Currently, the AstraZeneca vaccines are not approved for use in the United States and are being loaned to other countries The main issue from this is that in 2020, it was projected that the federal and state governments’ income tax revenue declined approximately $155 billion. This is a 5.5% decrease in income tax revenue. Tax revenue is expected to decline until at least 2022. As a result, there will be a strain on the United States to provide for both Americans and those in developing countries. By providing vaccines to Americans first, the tax revenue generated from the reopening of the American economy can, directly and indirectly, help developing nations through foreign aid, medical equipment donations, and most importantly,vaccine donations.

Instead of the United States donating vaccines or providing aid in some form, ensuring that most of the American population is vaccinated before donating surpluses will benefit both the US and developing countries. The US will be able to drastically reduce cases, and be able to ramp up its vaccine production for both domestic and international use. Developing countries will also be able to prepare mass vaccination campaigns. As the world is continuing to cooperate to end the pandemic, it is important to realize that spreading thin too early will not end with a desired result. It is critical that the United States assist developing nations after its own successful campaign. By ensuring that a majority of the United States is safe and has succeeded in its vaccination campaign before moving onto another country, not only will there be safety for Americans and those who are in developing nations.

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