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Protesters demand a "people's vaccine" for Covid-19

Members of the People's Vaccine coalition attend a protest on May 11, 2021 in Macclesfield, United Kingdom, demanding the science behind Covid-19 vaccines be made public so poor countries can develop generic versions and speed the end of the pandemic. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

On Eve of G7, Poll Finds US Voters Want Biden to Lead on Vaccinating World

The survey by Data for Progress found overwhelming support for the president to go "above and beyond" his plan to donate 500 million vaccine doses.

Julia Conley

The vast majority of U.S. voters support the Biden administration's plan to send hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to other countries to help end the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey that was released ahead of a global summit where leaders will discuss the need to vaccinate the world.

The poll, (pdf) conducted by progressive think tank Data for Progress and David Binder Research and commissioned by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), showed that 76% of Americans want the Biden administration to lead other countries including the G7, which begins the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England Friday, in ensuring vaccine doses get to countries that need them, and 79% support the U.S. taking part in global vaccination efforts.

Nearly three-quarters of independent and Republican voters are among those who support efforts by the U.S. to help distribute vaccine doses.

"The Biden administration has a moral responsibility to help end global vaccine apartheid," said government watchdog Public Citizen. "The American people understand that."

The data was released as President Joe Biden announced a plan to purchase and donate 500 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine to distribute via COVAX, the United Nations-backed facility that was set up to send vaccines to developing countries and which so far has distributed 81 million doses, leaving parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, with tiny fractions of their populations inoculated while wealthy countries are far enough along in their campaigns to begin vaccinating children. 

"We have the power to end this pandemic—we have multiple, highly successful vaccines, and global mechanisms in place to deliver them. All that stands between us and ending Covid-19 are politics, vested interests, and profits based on patents." —Fatima Hassan, Health Justice Initiative

"Overwhelmingly, the findings establish a firm case of American approval for the Biden administration to go above and beyond the 500 million purchased doses," said Data for Progress of the survey.

Sean McElwee, executive director of the organization, said Biden "has a clear mandate... to ensure we vaccinate the world."

“After four years of Trumpism and absence from the world stage, we find national voters strongly support America leading global efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines," McElwee said. "This support notably transcends partisan lines, and should give the Biden administration clear approval of their current and future humanitarian vaccine efforts."

Biden will meet Friday with the leaders of the other G7 countries, including France, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Japan, and Italy. Japanese officials have said they will not oppose a dose-sharing plan and French President Emanual Macron said Wednesday he backs the waiving of vaccine patents, but the other G7 countries so far have not expressed support for the measure.

"The path we are currently on does not benefit anybody," said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice for Amnesty International, part of the People's Vaccine global coalition. "There is no way life can return to normal, anywhere, if people in just a handful of countries are vaccinated. There will be no end in sight until rich countries stop hoarding vaccines, stop supporting pharma monopolies, and start facing up to their international obligations."

Vaccine developers, which have received more than $100 billion in public financing, must share their technology and expertise to support an increase in vaccine production, said the People's Vaccine coalition, calling for "the immediate waiving of intellectual property, sharing of technology, and financing for manufacturing worldwide."

Such a solution would allow eight billion vaccine doses to be produced in a year, for as little as $25 billion. 

"We have the power to end this pandemic—we have multiple, highly successful vaccines, and global mechanisms in place to deliver them. All that stands between us and ending Covid-19 are politics, vested interests, and profits based on patents," said Fatima Hassan, founder and director of Health Justice Initiative in South Africa.

Data for Progress said that beyond the Biden administration's pledge to share doses, the U.S. must "support a bold global vaccine initiative that includes: scaling up global financing and dose sharing; supporting technology transfer and intellectual property reform; and increasing global manufacturing capacity, especially in the Global South."

"The Biden administration should lead these efforts and can do so with the overwhelming support of U.S. voters," said the think tank. 

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