The vaccine partnership would help ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine—including in the United States—but Trump won’t participate.
By Eric A. Friedman, Lawrence O. Gostin, Matthew M. Kavanaugh, John T. Monahan, Harold Hongju Koh
Foreign Policy, September 15, 2020
In one of its latest strikes against global solidarity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has declared that it will not participate in the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a global partnership that aims to support the development of a vaccine and share access to it. Trump apparently prefers, instead, a go-it-alone approach that could undermine Americans’ access to an eventual vaccine and disrupt efforts to ensure equity in its global distribution.
This move is one of a string of administration actions that have undermined the now distant-seeming tradition of U.S. global health leadership. The same week as its COVAX announcement, the Trump administration also said that it would withhold $62 million that the United States owes to the World Health Organization (WHO) for its annual dues. The administration plans to redirect the funding to other United Nations health programs. Congress had already appropriated the WHO funding, making Trump’s move the latest among his strikes against the rule of law; he has no authority to redirect funds that Congress has already allocated.
The administration’s effort to undermine WHO reached a climax in July when the United States began the yearlong process of withdrawing from the organization.
The administration has virtually invented “vaccine nationalism,” making exclusive deals with several vaccine manufacturers to ensure a supply of their vaccines for Americans, the consequences for the rest of the world being of no concern.
And now, as the world anxiously awaits a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, the administration announced that it will not participate in COVAX. The decision stands to undermine the most consequential area of global cooperation around COVID-19, a crisis otherwise marked by a stunning lack of global solidarity. And by denying Americans the benefits that all countries participating in COVAX will receive, the decision poses a direct health and economic threat to Americans.
The U.S. is shunning COVAX because of its link to the WHO, which the administration wrongheadedly views as being controlled by China. The vast majority of countries, 172, have joined COVAX, which is co-led by WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Remarks on China Joining COVAX
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China, October 9, 2020
On October 8, China and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, signed an agreement, officially joining COVAX. This is an important step China has taken to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a severe threat to the safety and health of people in all countries. China continues to focus on ensuring that developing countries have equal access to appropriate, safe and effective vaccines. To that end, we have solemnly pledged to make vaccines developed and deployed by China a global public good, which will be provided to developing countries as a priority. Therefore, China has maintained close communication with COVAX with a positive attitude towards joining it. Even when China is leading the world with several vaccines in advanced stages of R&D and with ample production capacity, it still decided to join COVAX. We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX. China will also strengthen vaccine cooperation with relevant countries through the COVAX network.
China will continue to work together with COVAX partners and contribute its share to the global fight against the pandemic to safeguard all human beings’ safety and health.
Johns Hopkins, Coronavirus Resource Center
Accessed October 9, 2020
- 7,605,873 Confirmed cases
- 212,762 Deaths
- 2.8% Case-Fatality
- 65.03 Deaths/100K Pop.
- 90,728 Confirmed cases
- 4,739 Deaths
- 5.2% Case-Fatality
- 0.34 Deaths/100K Pop.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Today’s Quote of the Day resources are really troubling. President Trump has repeatedly condemned China for the problems that we have with the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet the United States has far more cases and deaths from the coronavirus than does China. We have almost 200 times the number of deaths per 100,000 population than does China.
This tragic pandemic cries out for world cooperation in bringing it under control and in preventing similar pandemics in the future. The World Health Organization, with the cooperation of other agencies, has brought 172 nations together in COVAX – a global partnership that aims to support the development of a vaccine and share access to it. Yet President Trump has refused to allow the United States to participate, partly because he “wrongheadedly” views WHO as being controlled by China. According to Foreign Policy, “Trump apparently prefers, instead, a go-it-alone approach that could undermine Americans’ access to an eventual vaccine and disrupt efforts to ensure equity in its global distribution.” Considering the Trump administration’s attitudes on trade, it is not unreasonable to suspect that he would like to capture the international market for Covid vaccine and knock China out of the competition.
Contrast that with the release from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “China will continue to work together with COVAX partners and contribute its share to the global fight against the pandemic to safeguard all human beings’ safety and health.” In taking this step, they express their desire “to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good.”
Do we no longer believe in a shared community committed to a global public good? As I said, today’s message is really troubling.
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