In his first weeks on the job, President Joe Biden has presented numerous executive orders showing his administration’s commitment to returning the US to a leadership role in the global response to COVID-19. This new approach reflects a clear lesson from the failed example of the Trump administration: we cannot succeed if we do it alone. The United States and other countries share a common goal: to end the destruction caused by this virus. Full recovery from the pandemic for Americans requires US states to work together and also in cooperation with countries around the world to restore economic health and security.
Former President Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism still has serious implications. While it may not seem like it at this point, the US has set aside enough doses to vaccinate all Americans more than four times. But frontline workers, teachers, and chronically ill seniors around the world may have to wait years to protect themselves from the virus. Vaccinating all Americans and ensuring equitable access to the vaccine for less wealthy nations depends more on politics than resources. Access in a global pandemic should be based on the level of risk and need, not on a country’s financial situation. Additionally, the bold decisions now made by elected officials could lead to an increase in global vaccine production to meet global demand. Biden has a tremendous opportunity to restore America as a world leader on many fronts. But ensuring affordable and equitable access to the vaccine will require the president to do more: reject business as usual and take serious action to end monopoly price control by drug companies. Fair and equitable access to a vaccine for Americans and people around the world is not a job America can leave to drug companies. Recently, more than 100 leaders in public health, faith, economics and other areas signed an open letter to Biden, calling on the administration to make the COVID vaccine a global public good. Because as long as pharmaceutical corporations can set their own prices for vaccines and treatments, the same pharmaceutical companies that promise benevolence at this point will ignore price speculation. It has happened before. Rising prices on all kinds of basic drugs that have been developed with public dollars over the years heralds what we can expect if COVID drugs are left in the hands of Big Pharma. It’s time for a fit-for-the-moment approach: a “popular vaccine” that prioritizes equitable and universal global access over industry profits. Biden and Congress must work together to pass the Pandemic Treatment Accessibility and Affordability Act as part of an effort to ensure fair and affordable access for all. Americans must now move forward with the confidence that we can, as Biden puts it, “build back better” after the Trump administration’s broken promises, the division and dismantling of America’s greatest achievements and international relations. Making the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good is an unmissable opportunity for the United States to lead again. However, the reestablishment of the United States as a world leader is not automatic based on the outcome of an election. Leadership must be won through decisive action that showcases American resources and know-how to a world in crisis. Margarida Jorge is the campaign director for Reduce drug prices now. Niko Lusiani is Oxfam’s Senior Advisor. Also Read: Expect COVID-19 Injections In The Years To Come, Johnson & Johnson CEO Says More: Democrats Introduce Ambitious Child Care Tax Credit, But Will It Be Enough?