US Refuses to Join Global Effort to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine
The administration of President Donald Trump has announced the United States would not join a global effort to develop, produce and distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus because the effort is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, developed a plan called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (Covax), which is meant to hasten the development and testing of a vaccine and work toward distributing it equally.
Last month, the WHO said that over 170 countries were in talks to participate in Covax, but The Washington Post has reported that the US will not be joining the initiative.
Meanwhile, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday, “Under President Trump’s leadership, vaccine and therapeutic research, development, and trials have advanced at unprecedented speed to deliver groundbreaking, effective medicines driven by data and safety and not held back by government red tape.
“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China.”
Health experts argue that the US’ refusal to partake in Covax would mean that it is betting on the effectiveness of its own vaccine development and at the same time encouraging other countries to do the same, which could potentially result in hoarding of the vaccine and higher prices for doses.
The Trump administration is currently focusing on its own plan called Operation Warp Speed to develop a vaccine and manufacture 300m doses by January 2021.
In August, the WHO director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned against “vaccine nationalism,” saying, “No one is safe until everyone is safe. No one country has access to research and development, manufacturing and all the supply chain for all essential medicines and materials.”
Meanwhile, Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, told The Washington Post that the US’ refusal to join Covax is a “real blow” to the global effort.
“The behavior of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health,” Moon said. “It’s about, are you a reliable partner or, at the end of the day, are you going to keep all your toys for yourself?”
In April, Trump has halted funding to the WHO, accusing the Geneva-based agency of mishandling the deadly flu-like pathogen.
The US president also claimed the agency had failed to disclose or respond to “credible” information in December that suggested the virus could be spread through human-to-human transmission.