In response to new COVID-19 policies announced by President Joe Biden today, the following statement is attributable to Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS, senior medical advisor at Physicians for Human Rights and professor of family medicine at Georgetown University:
“With hospitals full, staff overstretched, and the Delta variant roiling the country, the White House is right to enact enhanced measures to improve vaccination rates in the United States. Vaccine and testing requirements will help to keep everyone safer, though it is vital that all mandates adhere to robust ethical and human rights principles. Health care facility vaccination requirements will protect health workers, patients, and surrounding communities.
“However, the White House plan has a glaring hole: it falls woefully short on global vaccination efforts. The COVID-19 crisis in the United States is not taking place in a vacuum. The fate of the country’s health is dependent on how the United States and other high-income nations help to vaccinate the rest of the world. Instead, the United States and other high-income countries continue to hoard vaccine doses, providing booster shots to otherwise-healthy individuals before billions of people around the globe – including health workers and the immunocompromised – receive even their first shot. President Biden needs to drastically expand investment in manufacturing and production of vaccines in the United States as well as in low- and middle-income countries; influence pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine recipes and know-how; and re-allocate doses equitably around the world, prioritizing those most at risk. President Biden is making a political choice in failing to invest in vaccination needs internationally.
“The president’s so-called ‘Path out of the Pandemic’ plan will end up in a ditch unless more is done to provide access to COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, everywhere. With deadlier and more contagious new variants a very real possibility, the pandemic will not end for those in the United States until global vaccine equity is achieved.
“Domestically, the expanded vaccination and testing requirements will need to overcome major operational and logistical challenges. The new workplace policies must go hand-in-hand with adequate leave provisions, so that people can get vaccinated and recover from side effects, if needed, and if they test positive for COVID-19, remain in isolation while protecting their livelihoods.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.