Healthcare advocates on Thursday welcomed a pledge from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to share any potential Covid-19 vaccine with the rest of the world if elected, calling it an important "step in the right direction" that must be followed up with a substantive plan to reverse President Donald Trump's "America First" approach to the global pandemic.
"Covid-19 technologies must be treated by the U.S. and all nations as global public goods," said Emily Sanderson, an organizer with Health GAP, an international advocacy group dedicated to expanding global access to medicine.
"Hoarding, nationalism, pushing people in low-, middle-income, and other upper-middle income countries to the back of the line, blocking healthcare workers' access to life-saving personal protective equipment, and buying up supplies of current and prospective treatments is a losing prescription for the American people," Sanderson said. "All candidates and elected officials should strongly affirm their support for and commitment to global health policies that advance the right to health for people in the U.S. and around the world."
In an interview Wednesday with Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan, Biden condemned Trump's withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Health Organization and committed to share any Covid-19 vaccine with the international community if elected president.
"This is the only humane thing in the world to do," Biden said. "Were I president now, and I propose we do it now, set aside $25 billion to put together a plan now—now, this instant—how we will distribute that vaccine when it's made available, to guarantee it gets to every American and access is made available to the rest of the world."
"This guy's whole idea of America, America on its own, has meant America alone," Biden added. "It lacks any human dignity what we're doing."
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On June 29, as Common Dreams reported, the Trump administration announced a deal with pharmaceutical giant Gilead to purchase nearly the company's entire stock of Covid-19 treatment remdesivir. Critics around the world warned that the move may have offered a preview of White House behavior should the U.S. become the first nation with access to a coronavirus vaccine.
Brook Baker, a professor of law at Northeastern University and senior policy analyst with Health GAP, said in a statement that the U.S. "must learn the lessons from the global AIDS pandemic, where Big Pharma's price gouging and obstruction of cost-cutting generic competition resulted in countless preventable deaths in the global South, particularly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa."
Baker urged Biden to put forth "a concrete plan to dismantle the misguided, dangerous current policy of 'America first, everyone else to the back of the queue.'"
"Biden must also show how he will overcome patent and other drug company monopolies to ensure adequate supplies of affordable vaccines both in the U.S. and around the world," said Baker. "Aggressively expanding manufacturing capacity to meet emergency needs should not be left to the companies—there should be full technology transfer to all capable manufacturers globally so that the world can collectively end this plague sooner rather than later."