— Health

Who benefits? US debates fairest way to share spare vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) – In April, the Biden administration announced plans to share millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. Five weeks later, nations around the globe are still waiting – with growing impatience – to learn where the vaccines will go and how they will be distributed.

To President Joe Biden, the doses represent a modern-day “arsenal of democracy,” serving as the ultimate carrot for America’s partners abroad, but also as a necessary tool for global health, capable of saving millions of lives and returning a semblance of normalcy to friends and foes alike.

The central question for Biden: What share of doses should be provided to those who need it most, and how many should be reserved for U.S. partners?

The answer, so far at least, appears to be that the administration will take a hands-off approach to distribute the bulk of the doses by providing them to COVAX, the U.N.-backed global vaccine sharing program. While the percentage is not yet finalized, it would mark a substantial – and immediate – boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with impoverished countries.

The Biden administration plans to reserve about a fourth of the doses for the U.S. to dispense directly to individual nations of its choice. The growing U.S. stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines is seen as a testament to American ingenuity and its global privilege.

More than 50% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 135 million are fully vaccinated, helping bring the rate of cases and deaths in the U.S. to the lowest level since the earliest days of the pandemic.

Scores of countries have requested doses from the United States, but only Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5 million doses to date. The U.S. also has announced plans to share enough shots with South Korea to vaccinate its 550,000 troops who serve alongside American service members on the peninsula.

The broader U.S. sharing plan is still being finalized. A White House official said, has been the subject of policy debate inside the White House and across the federal government and involving COVAX and other outside stakeholders like drug manufacturers and logistics experts.

“Our nation’s going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world,” Biden said on May 17, when he announced the U.S. pledge to share more doses. He added that, compared to other countries like Russia and China that have sought to leverage their domestically produced quantities, “we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries.”

Still, the partnership with the South Korean military points to the ability of the U.S. to use its vaccine stockpile to benefit some of its better-off allies. It was not clear whether South Korea would pay for its doses from the U.S. Most of the other amounts were expected to be donated.

Samantha Power, the new USAID administrator, provided the first indication of the likely allocation last week in testimony on Capitol Hill. She told the Senate Appropriations Committee that “75% of the doses we share will likely be shared through COVAX. Twenty-five percent of whatever our excess supply is that we are donating will be reserved to be able to deploy bilaterally.”

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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