Biden's domestic and global challenges on COVID vaccinations

Biden's domestic and global challenges on COVID vaccinations
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Last week, Americans were given the reassuring news that two of the largest economies in the country, California and New York, are fully open with COVID-19 restrictions finally lifted.  

Of course, these accomplishments are the result of the success of the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. A fourth vaccine is also likely to receive FDA approval in due time after trials showed high vaccine efficacy. 

Ultimately, these vaccines should be seen and remembered as marvels of innovation. Further, the mRNA technology used in the vaccines has the potential to unlock doors to prevention of other damaging viruses and conditions. 

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In light of this, there are two steps for President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE and the Democratic leadership to take next: double down on vaccine education in the United States and adapt policies that expand vaccination to the world. 

As of this week, less than one-half of Americans have been fully vaccinated. Further, there are large racial gaps between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. At the time of publication, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that race and ethnicity was known for 57 percent of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, 60 percent are white, 9 percent are Black, 15 percent are Hispanic, 6 percent are Asian, 1 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 1 percent are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. 

Thus, Biden and the Democrats are faced with reversing this widespread unwillingness to receive the vaccine, particularly in nonwhite communities. These steps are critical in order to reach a 70 percent vaccination rate by Independence Day and herd immunity as a result.

In addition to expanding vaccine education here at home, Biden and Democratic leadership need to focus on implementing policies that will expand vaccination to the world — namely, protecting patents for vaccines. This is a necessary step to save lives worldwide, and is critical in order to truly revive our interconnected world and economy.

Positively, in some ways, the administration has thus far shown that the U.S. is committed, ready and able to be the arsenal of vaccination. Biden’s announcement last week that the U.S. would donate 500 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to countries struggling with supply with “no strings attached,” and no “pressure for favors or potential concessions,” was profound, and a meaningful display of American vaccine leadership on the world stage.

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Further, optimistic partnerships dedicated to this goal emerged out of the G7 summit in Cornwall last week and out of European Union talks. At the G7 summit, leaders of major industrial nations — including the United States — promised approximately 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries as a “big step towards vaccinating the world,” as United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

However, the one major thing that could upend this entire pathway to not just normalcy, but a once again thriving global economy, is giving away these life-saving vaccine formulas to substandard manufacturers in the developing world by waiving patents on vaccines.

The announcement last month by the Biden administration to give away the formulas for our effective, American-developed vaccines to developing countries, who vastly lack the ability to safely manufacture the billions of doses needed, is bad policy — not to mention foolish and dangerous.

It is clear that suspending patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccine will not increase the global vaccination rate, and in fact, it would actually limit the distribution of vaccines worldwide over the long-term. 

A select number of factories in the U.S. have even been closed for not meeting standards, and some have produced tainted vaccine doses that they were forced to throw out. To be sure, this is a harbinger of what could happen without the tightest controls on production and patent protection.

Italy has also said they would support a waiver limited to vaccines. Germany and the U.K. oppose doing so, while the position of both Japan and Canada is unclear, though neither have expressed full support. 

Pharmaceutical factories in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom are fully underway churning out enough to provide millions of vaccine doses per day. It is absolutely essential that we double down on that reliable and robust production, and not allow substandard vaccines to be the only option the developing world has.

Germany, which has also been a crucial partner on vaccination, is host to one of the most successful vaccine developers — Pfizer-BioNTech — which produces a vaccine with a high efficacy rate that is easy to manufacture. 

Speaking out against the suspension of patent protections, a German government spokeswoman aptly argued that “the limiting factor for the production of vaccines are manufacturing capacities and high-quality standards, not the patents. The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and this has to remain so in the future.”

Simply put, the developing world should have access to the same quality vaccine as the American people. And make no mistake, pharmaceutical producers in major industrial nations are the only ones who can deliver that — and ultimately, are the only ones who can save lives globally and bring the world back to normal.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an advisor to President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWhy Democrats' .5 trillion reconciliation bill is a losing game Democrats must win big on health care to have a shot in the midterms Stacey Abrams PAC tops 0 million raised MORE. His new book is “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”