US Cuts Global Vaccine Funding
The tight-fisted decision to undermine the global vaccine campaign is as short-sighted for Americans as it is greedy.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus that led to record surges of cases in nearly every country around the world came about because of mutations to the virus that were discovered in South Africa. Experts say more mutations will occur as long as much of the world remains unvaccinated.
“Until we get the world vaccinated, we’re going to continue to see variants arise,” said Dr. Anna Durbin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Global Health, in an interview published by Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Andrew Freedman said the same in an interview with CNBC: “Until the whole world is vaccinated, not just rich Western countries, I think we are going to remain in danger of new variants coming along, and some of those could be more virulent than Omicron.”
More funding is desperately needed. Two dozen countries still have less than 20% of their populations vaccinated. Most of those countries are poor, and many are conflict-ravaged. Syria, where multiple countries and local militias have been warring for years, is just 8% vaccinated.
The United States, for that matter, despite no foreign militaries occupying it and a huge head start in hoarding vaccine supply, has a relatively low vaccination rate compared to other wealthy countries. At just 66%, the U.S. has still not met the 70% target it hoped to reach last year.
Funding vaccination campaigns around the world “isn’t altruism or aid or anything; this is the global escape strategy from something that we’re all suffering together,” said Danny Altmann of Imperial College London.
Yet the United States – which was one of the worst-hit countries by Omicron – has recently cut funding for vaccinating the world.
The bill passed by the U.S. Congress only funds $10 billion for the pandemic response after more than $20 billion was requested by U.S. President Joe Biden. Stingy American legislators cut funding for treating uninsured U.S. citizens infected by COVID-19 as well as funding for global vaccine programs. USAID will not be able to fund any more vaccines in Africa after July.
The tight-fisted decision to undermine the global vaccine campaign is as short-sighted for Americans as it is greedy. During America’s Omicron outbreak in January, the U.S. experienced multiple daily 1 million COVID-19 transmissions. Sixty thousand people died.
But cutting funding is in keeping with a U.S. antagonism towards foreign aid. The neo-conservatives have always resented foreign countries who don’t follow the U.S. foreign policy interests in every case for needing aid. They have often demanded every country the U.S. aids vote with the U.S. in the United Nations.
In 2011, House Republicans proposed cuts to funding for programs addressing HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa and USAID writ large. Global health has never been their highest priority.
Things have gotten worse since Donald Trump took over the Republican Party and won the presidency in 2016. The ID of Trump’s toxic politics is “America First.” In practice, it shows how mean and closed-minded one can be.
It is about a lack of caring, not just for the people of the world with darker skin than Trump and his fellow Republicans, but also a lack of care for one’s fellow citizens. The Republicans cut funding for all kinds of social services, veterans’ healthcare, opioid and drug addiction programs, infrastructure, and many other things that benefit Americans directly.
It is a twisted, cruel reversal of terminology that leaves America – and the world – vulnerable to the next variant and the next COVID-19 surge.