Ending COVID for good will be a war. U.S. should lead fightApril 1, 2021
The steadily increasing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. — more than 2.5 million shots a day at the moment — has given hope to many Americans that the pandemic will be over in a few months and life can return to normal.
Sorry to burst that bubble, but even if enough Americans are vaccinated to reach herd immunity, the pandemic won’t be over until every nation on Earth has equal protection. And under current projections, that won’t happen for three years from now, maybe longer.
That’s because the bulk of the available doses have been scarfed up by wealthy nations, including the U.S., which struck deals with pharmaceutical companies even before their vaccines had been proved effective. Last week, Tom Bollyky of the Council on Foreign Relations told National Public Radio that just 10 countries have used three out of every four of the some 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered so far, with the U.S. at the top of the list.
While the U.S. has given at least one shot to more than a quarter of its population, most countries have administered doses at significantly lower rates. Even some wealthy countries (including Germany, which invested millions in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) are lagging behind. And dozens of countries haven’t even begun inoculations.
This should not be acceptable to anyone, least of all President Biden. His COVID team, which surpassed its modest goal of getting 100 million doses into arms weeks earlier than promised, could amass a glut of doses as early as May. The president must turn his attention to fighting the virus globally and commit the money, diplomacy and technology that such an initiative will require.
It’s more than just a moral imperative to help poorer and less-connected countries protect their populations. An ongoing international pandemic threatens the United States’ safety and prosperity. “As long as the virus continues to circulate anywhere, people will continue to die, trade and travel will continue to be disrupted, and the economic recovery will be further delayed,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, told reporters recently.
There are economic reasons to do so as well. A study by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation estimates that the global economy could to lose up to $9.2 trillion if some countries aren’t given access to COVID-19 vaccines. The pandemic has already destabilized the economies and political structures of many countries. Who knows what another year or three of pandemic might mean for global stability? It’s a chilling thought.
And most frightening of all is that each new transmission increases the opportunity for the coronavirus to mutate into variants, which could lead to strains that are more contagious, deadlier and more resistant to current vaccines, health experts fear. If that happened, it could plunge every country — vaccinated or not — back to the dark days of…