Why the US should donate surplus vaccines to other countries

America’s handling of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is an example of classism and systemic inequities in the public health sector.  Although the United States has an adult population of approximately 209 million people, the current vaccine stockpile sits upwards of 700 million doses; this includes the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which has not yet received approval in the United States, despite getting the green light in many other countries.  What should the United States do with all the extra doses?  More importantly, how is it fair for the United States to hold on to millions of extra doses, while poorer countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa need them?

For starters, the United States has a moral obligation to provide struggling countries with vaccines.  To help their populations, the United States, alongside many other wealthy countries, are participating in “vaccine nationalism” or stocking up on as many vaccines as possible.  The United States has currently accumulated nearly double the vaccinations necessary to vaccinate every adult.  As we have already lost millions of lives worldwide, it is the United States’ moral obligation to give these extra vaccines to poorer countries to prevent more devastating losses. 

“Yes, I believe that the United States needs to be a leader and help potentially save lives in developing countries if they have surplus dosages.  It helps build trust with other countries and overall creates better relationships if we show the initiative to save lives that aren’t just American,” said freshman Advait Nair.

The longer the U.S. hoards vaccines, the more at risk vaccinated people will become. Uncontrolled spread has led to even more dangerous variants of COVID-19.  With each new infection, the chance of mutations and more dangerous variants forming becomes higher.  Keeping our additional vaccines for ourselves instead of sharing them with poor and developing countries will not only negatively impact those countries, but will also harm Americans.  The United States can make a global impact by donating their extra vaccines to the World Health Organization COVAX fund, whose main goal is to provide fair access to the vaccines to every country.

“I think that giving more vaccines will reduce the amount of transmission, and therefore leave less room for variants to spread.  I don’t think vaccinations alone will completely eliminate variants from rising, but I do think it will be a key factor,” said freshman Averie Masia.

The United States has the ability to give vaccines to any county in need, which could play a key role in building a relationship with that nation.  As global tensions run high, the U.S. can use their surplus vaccines to build trust, while improving relationships with developing countries.  This could be an opportunity to connect with countries that may have struggled against COVID-19.

“I believe the U.S. helping smaller nations with vaccines would improve relations. Helping others is the right thing to do, and these nations will take this into account,” said freshman Max Baum.

The United States should aid in the distribution of vaccines as there exists a global inequity.  Every individual deserves a vaccination regardless of race, social class, or cultural background, and the United States has a moral obligation to help nations in need.  Furthermore, even through a nationalist lens, it is necessary to vaccinate the whole world population.  Failing to do so will lead to new variants that will render the vaccines less effective and potentially cause a greater catastrophe.  Now is the time to work collaboratively so the world can finally be free from the dangers of this horrible virus.