The Trump administration is refusing to join a global effort to help develop, manufacture, and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, piggybacking off its limited, or lack thereof, efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
As if this administration couldn’t make any more bad decisions in regards to the coronavirus, it is now refusing to join global efforts because of Trump’s issues with the World Health Organization.
According to The Washington Post, over 170 countries are expected to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which plans to develop a vaccine, secure doses for all countries, and distribute them to the most high-risk areas of each population.
But despite the global involvement and subsequent threat to the United States’ role in health diplomacy, the U.S. will not join the efforts, which is due, in part, to the fact that Trump no longer wants to work with WHO, after previously criticizing its “China-centric” response to the global pandemic.
“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,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House.
Instead, the administration is convinced that it will be first to develop and distribute a vaccine and, therefore, eliminate the U.S.’s chance to receive doses from a pool of “promising vaccine candidates” The Washington Post reports.
“America is taking a huge gamble by taking a go-it-alone strategy,” said Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, as others likened the move to opting out of an insurance policy.
“When the U.S. says it is not going to participate in any sort of multilateral effort to secure vaccines, it’s a real blow,” said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
“The behavior of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health,” she added. “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?”
The worst-case scenario in this instance, according to The Washington Post, is that none of the U.S. vaccine candidates prove to be viable, leaving America with no vaccine options because it refused to participate in the global effort. But another scenario could end with the United States hoarding doses and vaccinating more Americans, as they leave other countries out to dry. And if that happens, Americans will be vaccinated, but the United States’ recovery depends on economic recovery elsewhere, so if other countries are shut down because of the virus, the U.S will still be unable to bounce back.
“We will continue to suffer the economic consequences — lost U.S. jobs — if the pandemic rages unabated in allies and trading partners,” said Thomas J. Bollyky, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the director of its global health program.
In the meantime, The WHO says countries do not need to choose between there own deals and joining Covax. In fact, they almost encourage it.
“By joining the facility at the same time that you do bilateral deals, you’re actually betting on a larger number of vaccine candidates,” Mariângela Simao, a WHO assistant director general for drug and vaccine access, said at an Aug. 17 briefing.
But, there is still time for the United States to change its mind, or at least allow funding through Gavi, which still holds the U.S.’ support and also co-leads the COvax project.
“This just shows how awkward, contradictory and self-defeating all of this is,” J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said. “For the U.S. to terminate its relationship with the WHO in the middle of a pandemic is going to create an endless stream of self-defeating moments.”