WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined a group of Senate colleagues urging the Biden Administration to dramatically expand the United States’ role in vaccine production and distribution around the globe.
The letter, drafted ahead of the COVID-19 international summit, presses President Biden to commit resources to drive global vaccination efforts as a key to ending the pandemic. Among those efforts, the increase in vaccine access for low and middle income countries is a top priority for the group.
“According to experts, 11 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses are needed to vaccinate 70% of the global population and significantly reduce the spread of the virus. So far, 5.82 billion doses have been administered globally, but less than 2% of the population living in low-income countries received even one dose. Clearly, there is an inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses, and it is getting worse,” wrote the members. “Despite promises and pledges from some wealthy countries to donate nearly 1 billion doses to the global effort, only 15% of those donations have actually been distributed. Last week, COVAX announced that its 2021 forecast for COVID-19 doses available for distribution would be reduced by a quarter, from 1.9 billion to 1.4 billion. The United States can and should improve COVID-19 vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries and lead the entire world out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The senators noted that the U.S. remains vulnerable to variants even worse than the Delta variant currently ravaging parts of the country without a dramatic increase in vaccination rates globally. The senators asked the administration for a detailed, whole-of-government plan to surge global vaccine access.
In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-8) and Mark Pocan (D-WI-2).
You can read a copy of the letter here.