There are a couple of billion people around the world who want what many in the West have and won’t part with: a vaccine to protect against COVID 19.
Naturally, Western countries would like to vaccinate their own people before giving the stuff away to others. And with vaccine supplies currently limited by production, the question becomes why the shaming tactics?
The Compassion Brigades and international do-gooders have begun to point fingers at Western countries like the U.S. and accuse them of not caring about billions of vulnerable poor people who might sicken and die without being vaccinated. That is, indeed, a tragedy. But what is it they want from the U.S. and other nations that have been struggling to vaccinate their own citizens?
Tens of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities, awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trial while countries that have authorized its use beg for access.
The fate of those doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials, with some arguing the administration should let them go abroad where they are desperately needed while others are not ready to relinquish them, according to senior administration officials.
Europe has suspended the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of possible problems with blood clots. So we should send a lethal drug overseas?
The company is now grappling with another safety scare. Acting out of precaution, health authorities in Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended use of the AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Thursday after several reports across the continent of severe blood clots.
European official and the company said there was not evidence of any causal link. In the vast majority of cases, the emergence of such medical conditions has nothing to do with the vaccine. Some percentage of people are expected to fall ill by chance after getting vaccinated, as would happen in any group of people.
This is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Many EU countries may be willing to part with some doses but the slowdown in AstraZeneca production has thrown the entire system into chaos. And the U.S. needs those doses to ensure that our own population is vaccinated first.
“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, speaking generally about the U.S. vaccine supply. “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first.”
Biden can do nothing else without suffering severe political repercussions. And well he should. With limited manufacturing capacity and 7 billion people to innoculate, it’s an intelligent kind of nationalism that shouldn’t draw criticism from internationalists.
“We need to prevent vaccine nationalism,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of WHO, wrote to member states on August 18: “Whilst there is a wish amongst leaders to protect their own people first, the response to this pandemic has to be collective.”
Why? Each nation decides what’s best for its own people. That this means some people in third-world countries may sicken and die is a tragedy but it’s a tragedy no one can do anything about.
“Collective” action would mean turning vaccine production and distribution over to the WHO or some other international body. That won’t work and everyone knows it. And the sooner that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other internationalists realize that, the quicker the process will be.