The United States on Tuesday said it will not join the global initiative to develop, manufacture and equally distribute a coronavirus vaccine, partly due to the World Health Organisation’s involvement in the process, The Washington Post reported.
On July 7, the US had officially notified its decision to the United Nations that it was pulling out of the WHO. It was the largest contributor to the global agency and had contributed $400 million (approximately Rs 3,040 crore) to the organisation last year – nearly 15% of its entire budget. The country’s President Donald Trump had said it does not want to work with the global health body, claiming that it had deliberately covered up the early days of the pandemic to support China. The WHO had refuted Trump’s claims.
More than 170 countries are engaged in discussions to participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, which is focussed on speeding up the development of a drug, and ensuring doses for all countries and distributing the vaccines to the most high-risk segment of each population.
“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organisations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said on Tuesday, according to AP. “This president will spare no expense to ensure that any new vaccine maintains our own Food and Drug Administration’s gold standard for safety and efficacy, is thoroughly tested and saves lives.”
Many experts have criticised the Trump administration’s decision. Kendall Hoyt, an assistant professor at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, described the move as opting out of an insurance policy. Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, called the decision a “huge gamble”.
“The behavior of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health,” Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva said.
Experts also said that in the worst-case scenario, if none of the vaccines developed in the US are viable, it would leave the country with no options. On the other hand, if the US successfully develops a vaccine but hoards it, other countries will be left without a dose.
WHO officials have also clarified that the US may pursue both signing bilateral deals with drug companies as well as joining Covax – the global collaboration for Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccination.
The Covax decision has faced some resistance from authorities in the government, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, an unidentified official told the newspaper. However, the officials added that the US has enough coronavirus vaccine candidates in advanced clinical trials that it can opt to go alone.
Globally, the coronavirus has killed over 8.55 lakh and infected more than 2.56 crore people, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. Over 1.69 crore people across the world have recovered from the infection.