Ending a worldwide pandemic is bound to be a worldwide effort.
Several countries with effective vax rollouts have all but beaten COVID-19, but poorer nations in particular are still in the thick of it, putting the whole world at risk of renewed spread and increasing the odds that new variants will evolve that could render existing jabs less effective.
Which makes it prudent as well as decent for the United States, well on its way to jabbing 70 percent of the adult population, to share the vaccine love.
That’s the idea behind President Joe Biden’s global vaccine sharing program, which will donate 75 percent of America’s excess doses to dozens of lower-income countries suffering from vaccine shortages. (The other 25 percent will stay in reserve for emergencies and ally nations.)
He’s now vowing to send more than 500 million doses to lower-income nations. That’s far more effective than the earlier idea of voiding global patent protection for the US vaccines, since producing the shots is complex and requires top quality control: Bungling by a single low-rent manufacturer could produce bad shots and feed global anti-vax hysteria.
But getting to global vaccination will be tough. Africa, notably, is short 700 million jabs of what it would take to vaccinate each of its 1.3 billion people. South Africa alone, which boasts the continent’s most robust economy, has fully vaccinated only 8 percent of its population, failing to cover hundreds of thousands of health-care workers.
Latin America and Asia also have a long way to go. And many of these nations lack the health-care infrastructure to do mass vaccinations readily. In all, just 12 percent of the world population has gotten even one jab.
Meanwhile, the Delta strain (the variant first seen in India) has spread to at least 62 other countries, including some with plenty of vaccines. With at least one major vaccine (AstraZeneca) apparently less effective against it, global need for the highly effective vaccines developed under Team Trump’s Operation Warp Speed will grow higher still.
Two bottom lines here: First, as National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted as Biden announced his big donation, it’s all proof “that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere.”
Second: You’re likely to need a booster shot not just later this year, but again in 2022, and maybe for years to come. It’s a small inconvenience for the ability to live normally without fear.
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