On March 10, 2021, the United States federal government announced it would place an order for 100 million doses of the new single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines. This announcement comes on the heels of a previous order from Johns & Johnson for 100 million doses. The latest order brings the total of U.S. approved and recommended COVID vaccines in the U.S. to a surplus level capable of vaccinating 500 million people.
Currently, only three COVID vaccines have the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) approval and recommendation. These are the two-dose Pfizer-BioTech, Moderna, and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccines. AstraZeneca and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines are in Phase 3 of the clinical trials.
The U.S. current population is approximately 330 million people, so what does the U.S. plan to do with the excess surplus of vaccines? According to President Biden’s statements, when the press questioned what the U.S. would do with its surplus, the President stated that the federal government’s first responsibility would be to take care of its own people and then share any excess with other nations. However, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated other factors, such as more-contagious variants of the virus emerging, could impact inoculations and further spur a need for booster shots. These factors could directly impair when the U.S would be able to distribute does to other nations.
On March 18, 2021, the Biden administration shared plans to “loan” 4 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico. The AstraZeneca vaccine, still pending FDA approval in the U.S, has been approved in other countries. These doses will be shipped to Mexico and Canada to prevent those doses from continuing to go unused. Also, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the distribution is “certainly not limited to Canada and Mexico.” The U.S., she confirmed, has 7 million “releasable doses available,” the current plan calls for 2.5 million doses sent to Mexico and 1.5 million sent to Canada. The terms of the deal are pending agreements of all parties and will begin once the agreement is approved. Under this deal, both Canada and Mexico will pay the U.S. back with doses later this year.
According to AstraZeneca, they will have 30 million shots available by early April. Still, numerous European countries have suspended this vaccine after reports of several people who received the vaccine developed blood clots and died, despite AstraZeneca and the World Health Organization’s assurances that the vaccine is safe.
The question remains what the U.S. government will do with the surplus vaccines and which counties will get them and under what conditions? The Contravirus pandemic has hit the world hard, and many countries struggle with the cost of expensive U.S COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. was undoubtedly the worse hit, with over 30 million confirmed cases and nearly 550 million deaths. Global statistics indicate approximately 122 million cases and 1.7 million deaths worldwide, as of this writing. If we are to see an end to this pandemic, it will require all nations to step up and contribute to vaccines’ distribution.
The vaccine cost, difficulties in transportation, and requirements to preserve the vaccine before inoculation are staggering depending on the vaccine. The PfizerZeneca vaccine needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, which is more frigid than winter in Antarctica. The Moderna vaccine also needs to remain frozen, but at minus 20 Celsius, which is more reasonable. Still, distribution presents a daunting challenge in many regions of the world.
With the change of administrations in the U.S., many nations look hopefully to leadership from the U.S. in this war against the Contovirus pandemic before additional mutations can occur. The Biden administration’s change in attitude toward the World Health Organization is one positive sign. As was the rejoining of the Paris Climate Accords, a signal the U.S. wants to regain a leadership role on the world’s stage. Suppose the U.S. is sincerely taking a more liberal stance and humanitarian leadership role? What better way to show the world’s nations than leading a coalition of nations to distribute COVID vaccination Globally regardless of politics or borders. Many 3rd world nations have little or no means to inoculate their citizens, regions like the war-torn nations Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan, or sanctioned ones like Iran, or the occupied state of Palestine.
If the U.S. could learn one thing from the previous administrations, covering the period of the Vietnam War to the Middle East wars and the faulted Trump administration, it should be that you can not win peace with bullets, bombs, and bravado. You win peace and respect by helping and aiding others, and you help those who are suffering. Even if by the hand of your trusted allies, if those allies are the ones who contribute to injustice. Denying or delaying basic human needs such as food, water, and medicine are humanitarian crimes. Making the COVID-19 vaccine available to all humans is far more critical than any military war a nation could fight.