On February 18th, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would be donating 4 billion dollars to developing countries to build up their vaccine infrastructure. While this is a step in the right direction, we can also simply give the vaccines themselves to the countries that need them. It is imperative that countries with economies and infrastructure not as strong as the U.S.’s be able to return to normal conditions as soon as possible. The U.S., as one of the largest and wealthiest countries in the world, has a moral obligation and economic self-interest to help guide the world to a better place. The best way forward is to donate as many vaccine doses as possible to developing and low-income countries.
Inequity has become a part of the global race and struggle to end Covid-19. For the past year, scientists and experts have consistently stated that in order to adequately defeat Covid-19, herd immunity must be achieved. And, in order to have herd immunity, the world must become vaccinated. While the U.S. is on its way to achieving herd immunity — likely sometime by summer or early fall — it’s estimated that global herd immunity won’t be achieved until at least 2022. Whether it be conditions of living, poverty, crime, or public health and medical infrastructure, the imbalance of the global vaccine supply will only become more pronounced unless drastic measures are taken to mitigate it. There is also the obvious and ever-growing humanitarian crisis that the pandemic has caused, with developing countries lacking the public health infrastructure — including hospitals, equipment, and personnel — that richer countries such as the U.S. possess. The lack of access to public health infrastructure in developing countries makes the repercussions of Covid-19 worse. As a result, developing countries are in greater need of vaccines than other countries. So, the sooner that the U.S. lends a hand the sooner we will defeat this virus.
Developing countries’ lack of access to the vaccine also has major economic repercussions. If they are unable to vaccinate their own citizens, there will be even greater death and turmoil, halting their economies, which could also cause the global economy to trudge slower than it would have if countries were sufficiently supplied with vaccine doses. The global economy could expect to lose over 153 Billion dollars annually if developing countries don’t get vaccinated, according to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation.
Since the creation of the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, 190 countries have enrolled in the program; however, the 3 dozen richest countries secured a large amount of the supply, leaving the rest in a similar predicament to the one they experienced prior to enrolling in COVAX. In May 2020, the Trump administration secured a deal with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for 300 million doses of its vaccine. But, even after being approved in other countries and proven to be safe and effective against Covid-19, the FDA has yet to approve it for emergency use in the U.S. If the U.S isn’t going to use these, and instead buys vaccines from Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna, why can’t the Astrazeneca doses be given to countries that will greatly benefit from receiving them? One example of this is Norway, which has pledged to donate doses to COVAX while at the same time vaccinating their own citizens.
As the world soon becomes more inoculated each day, it also becomes embattled over the efficient distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. However, there is still potential for an accelerated process, and the U.S. can do its part, as one of the wealthiest and sustainable nations in the world, by donating its own doses of vaccine to developing countries. The U.S. should do this not only out of the greater good of humanity but also because of the economic benefit that all countries, including the U.S and the countries it donates to, will receive as a result of sharing doses with each other and the world.