Ahead of Blinken’s national security speech, ONE warns US risks losing vaccine diplomacy influence

WASHINGTON — The ONE Campaign released the below statement ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s speech previewing the Biden administration’s national security strategy, particularly as it relates to countering China.

While low-income countries struggle to acquire COVID-19 vaccines, China has made vaccine diplomacy a top priority, pledging millions of vaccines to poorer nations. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has yet to develop a plan for distributing the more than 450 million excess vaccine doses that the United States has purchased, a move that global health advocates warn could both prolong the pandemic and further endear low-income countries to China.

Tom Hart, North America executive director at The ONE Campaign:

“While countries like China are using vaccine diplomacy to build influence in places like Africa, the United States has not yet developed a clear framework and timeline for deploying excess COVID-19 vaccine doses.

“As we saw with the AIDS crisis in the early 2000’s, countries long remember who shows up to help in their time of need. We have the resources to both ensure every American has access to a vaccine and provide excess doses to countries who need them. It’s in the US’ national interest to ensure low and lower-middle income countries have the vaccines they need to help stop the spread of COVID-19 before more variants arise and the health situation deteriorates further.

“It’s time for US leaders to ask themselves: When this pandemic is over, do we want the world to remember America’s leadership to help distribute life-saving vaccines, or will we leave that to others?”

BACKGROUND

Global access to vaccines will save lives and make all of us safer. Research shows that in a scenario where a vaccine is not distributed fairly, twice as many people could die as the virus continues to wreak havoc on the world. If a vaccine is distributed exclusively to high-income countries first, the world will only avoid 33% of COVID-19 related deaths. But, if a vaccine is distributed to every country on the globe proportionally to its population rather than prioritizing high-income countries, the world could avoid 61% of COVID-19 related deaths.

Ensuring global access to a vaccine will not only end the pandemic sooner, but will boost the global economy. The economic cost of not distributing a vaccine everywhere would be enormous. A recent study found the global economy stands to lose as much as $9.2 trillion if governments fail to ensure developing economy access to COVID-19 vaccine.

The American people support global access to a vaccine around the world. An October 2020 poll of registered voters in the US found that 83 percent of Americans believe that healthcare workers, the elderly and at-risk groups anywhere in the world should be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine, before healthy people in their own country.

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