AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today sharply criticized the Biden Administration on its announcement of how it intends to share its first 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses of a planned donation of 75 million to 80 million doses worldwide. According to Politico, “The U.S. will route about 19 million doses — roughly 75 percent — through the global vaccine aid program COVAX, the White House said Wednesday. The Biden administration will send the remaining 25 percent of the doses directly to specific countries”.
Many believe COVAX has fallen far short of its goals and has been mired in bureaucratic and political turmoil. Of the 25 percent of doses being shipped directly to countries by the Biden administration, Politico reported “Seven million doses will be sent to Asian countries, including India, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines”.
India, a global COVID-19 epicenter and one of the countries now hardest hit by the pandemic, has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, making it the second most populated country in the world. As of May 24, 2021, the New York Times reported that India had 26.9 million COVID-19 cases with more than 307,000 deaths, although the reporters noted “The official Covid-19 figures in India grossly understate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”.
“Twenty-five million doses overall and just a share of seven million doses of the vaccine directly to India? Far too little, too late from the United States, a once-great beacon of international leadership,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “Our world is on fire with a virus that has already claimed more than three-and-a-half million lives globally”.
At the same time, virus variants are developing in India, Brazil, and other hot spots that could result in more lethal and/or untreatable strains that could easily boomerang back to vaccinated countries.
“Vaccine apartheid cannot stand. While we applaud the Biden administration for supporting waiving patent rights, they are taking too long to implement it,” added Weinstein. “Vaccine is needed immediately everywhere. We cannot celebrate COVID subsiding here while the rest of the world burns. If the Biden administration cannot see the morally right action is to share as much vaccine with the world as quickly as possible, they should instead consider the potential future threat if they have any hope of reclaiming our position as a leader on the global stage and in global public health”.