There is no nation on earth more generous than the United States of America. We supply half of all food aid around the world, feeding an estimated 600 million people. We rush aid to people hit by natural disasters, sending ships of war, experts, and, of course, billions in cash. Even a bitter enemy like North Korea, which receives substantial food aid from the U.S., gets help when the calls go out.
No other nation comes close to matching the generosity of the American people or its government to help those less fortunate.
So why all the bitching about the United States wanting to vaccinate its own people first, before “sharing” with the rest of the world? The Operation Warp Speed program was a U.S.-created endeavor. We spent billions of American tax dollars to fund it.
But the rest of the world thinks we’re being selfish in “hoarding” the drug.
The lack of U.S. vaccine assistance around the world has created an opportunity for China and Russia, which have promised millions of doses of domestically produced shots to other countries, though there have been production delays that have hampered the delivery of some supplies. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said this month that China opposes “vaccine nationalism” and that vaccines should become a global public good.
Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute and a vaccinologist, said wealthy countries have a stake in the success of vaccination efforts in other corners of the world.
“Beyond the moral obligation, the problem is that if there is not going to be control of the epidemic globally, this may ultimately backfire for these rich countries, if in areas where vaccines are not available variants emerge against which the vaccines might not work,” Hanekom said.
The “moral obligation” of the United States is to vaccinate its own people — first. Now that supplies are plentiful, the spigot of U.S. generosity will open and doses will begin to be shipped.
But everyone can’t be vaccinated at once.
The U.S. has also faced criticism that it is not only hoarding its own stockpiles, but also blocking other countries from accessing vaccines, including through its use of the law that gives Washington broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense.
Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines and a critical supplier of the U.N.-backed COVAX facility, asked Biden on Twitter on April 16 to lift the U.S. embargo on exporting raw materials needed to make the jabs.
If vaccinating our own people first from a disease that’s killed millions around the world isn’t a matter of “national security,” what is? America will end up vaccinating much of the planet. We will take on the lion’s share of the responsibility. Joe Biden is correct to try to vaccinate every American who wants one before shipping the drug worldwide.
It’s doubtful we will get any thanks when we do.