Public health experts say US is failing to keep promise of being world's 'arsenal of vaccines'

In a May address, President Joe Biden said the U.S. "is going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world." Now, public health experts, global health activists and some members of Congress are criticizing the administration for not moving quickly enough to fulfil the pledge, according to The New York Times.

As the U.S. recently announced its plan to administer booster shots to Americans while COVID-19 ravages many parts of the Global South, critics are calling upon the White House to scale up global COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing.

Congress set aside $16 billion to increase COVID-19 countermeasures, but a report released Aug. 25 by AIDS advocacy group PrEP4All found that the U.S. has spent less than 1 percent of it on increasing COVID-19 vaccine production.

The U.S. has spent $145 million to expand COVID-19 vaccine production, the bulk of which went to increasing Merck's manufacturing capacity, as the drugmaker partnered with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture 1 billion vaccine doses starting in early 2022.

The U.S. has also either donated or pledged about 600 million vaccine doses to other countries, and it has pursued efforts to expand vaccine production in India, South Africa, and Senegal. Experts say 11 billion doses are needed to slow the virus' spread worldwide.

The White House said it has allocated $10 billion for "vaccine raw materials, vaccine and other manufacturing capacity, and industrial base expansion," but it did not respond to The New York Times' repeated inquiries about whether the funds have actually been spent. The office of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she has also asked the White House to answer the same question.

"This lack of attention to executing a robust vaccination strategy abroad is arguably one of their biggest missteps with regard to Covid," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., told The New York Times.

 

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