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“Shortsighted and a Failure of Leadership”: Congress and White House Must Act on Global COVID-19 Response and Vaccine Equity: PHR

In advance of the second Global COVID-19 Summit, co-hosted by the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia, and Senegal, the following statement is attributable to Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, medical director at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and professor of public health and internal medicine at University of Michigan: 

“As the world surpasses 15 million deaths associated with COVID-19, the gathering of governments, companies, and philanthropies at the second Global COVID-19 Summit is urgently needed. 

“However, it is both shameful and imprudent that the United States is coming to this summit with no additional funds committed to support the global COVID-19 vaccine roll out.   

“New and emerging variants imperil progress against the pandemic. Thousands of people still die each day. COVID-19 continues to roil health systems and societies. It is thus shortsighted and a failure of leadership for the United States, with all its economic and technological might, to not bring new commitments to the global fight against COVID-19.  

“To protect people in the United States and around the world, Congress must immediately pass a robust global pandemic response package that prioritizes global vaccine distribution and equity.  It is essential that U.S. global COVID-19 aid not be tied to unrelated issues, particularly not to draconian Title 42 border expulsions, which is an immigration control order masquerading as pandemic policy.” 

“In the United States, nearly 1 million confirmed COVID-19 deaths are both an unfathomable tragedy and a stark reminder of the consequences of underinvestment in global health and pandemic responses. World leaders should ensure that everyone everywhere has access to high-quality COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and necessary supports such as oxygen. 

“In light of the massive public spending on COVID-19 vaccine research and development, we also call on the United States government to push pharmaceutical corporations to waive intellectual property restrictions, share technological know-how, and help boost global vaccine production and distribution capacity.   

“Largely due to the hoarding of vaccine supplies by high-income countries and the pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to advance a ‘people’s vaccine,’ the world will likely fall far short of the 70 percent global vaccination coverage goal embraced by the World Health Organization and the U.S. government. Physicians for Human Rights calls on governments and organizations attending the Global COVID-19 Summit to double down on their efforts to achieve this critical target, while also prioritizing vaccine distribution to health workers, marginalized groups, and others most at risk of severe health consequences from COVID-19.  

“More than two years into the pandemic and more than a year after COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, world leaders have no excuse for the continued staggering inequities and stalled progress in global vaccination efforts.” 

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.

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