Members of Congress Push to Increase U.S. Assistance to Help Vaccinate the World

Members of Congress Push to Increase U.S. Assistance to Help Vaccinate the World

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), and Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA-04) are leading a congressional effort urgently requesting supplemental funding be included in the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill expected to be negotiated early in the new year to support American-led efforts to vaccinate the world.

Merkley, Warren, Markey, Smith, Malinowski, Krishnamoorthi, and Jayapal are all leaders of the bicameral Global Vaccination Caucus. They were joined in today’s push by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

In a letter sent to both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, the lawmakers highlighted the importance for America to scale up efforts to vaccinate the world. The administration recently announced that it will utilize remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan to further propel domestic vaccine production and get shots into arms. However, far more needs to be done to vaccinate the world as swiftly as possible and prevent the emergence of future variants. As the explosion of Omicron variant cases around the world is showing, it will be impossible to protect Americans and our economy without urgently needed funding for treatment and vaccine delivery in low- and middle-income countries.

“For months, we have warned about the likelihood that new, more dangerous variants would emerge in countries with low vaccination rates,” the lawmakers wrote. “For months, we have called strenuously for a well-funded, comprehensive, American-led global vaccination and distribution program, to prevent the emergence of new variants and bring an end to this pandemic.”

“In July, our fears were realized when the Delta variant swept across our nation, stalling our economic recovery and causing tens of thousands of avoidable deaths,” they continued. “Now, the world faces yet another variant, Omicron, which may be even more transmissible than the Delta variant. We must end this cycle by prioritizing getting shots in arms around the world as soon as possible, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries, which do not have the resources to vaccinate their populations.”

The letter references the lawmakers’ July 23, 2021 request for supplemental funding to support global vaccine initiatives prior to the arrival of the Delta variant. The Senators and Representatives strongly urged the committees to include no less than $17 billion for global vaccination and treatment of COVID-19 in the FY22 appropriations omnibus legislation expected to be negotiated by February 18.

The full letter can be viewed here and follows below.

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Chair DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Leahy, and Vice Chairman Shelby: 

We write to ask that you urgently direct supplemental funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations omnibus for American-led efforts to vaccinate the world. For months, we have warned about the likelihood that new, more dangerous variants would emerge in countries with low vaccination rates. For months, we have called strenuously for a well-funded, comprehensive, American-led global vaccination and distribution program, to prevent the emergence of new variants and bring an end to this pandemic. In July, our fears were realized when the Delta variant swept across our nation, stalling our economic recovery and causing tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. Now, the world faces yet another variant, Omicron, which may be even more transmissible than the Delta variant. We must end this cycle by prioritizing getting shots in arms around the world as soon as possible, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries, which do not have the resources to vaccinate their populations.

Even before the Delta variant was widespread in the United States, we led a request[i] for up to $34 billion in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) to fund global vaccination production and distribution—as the most cost-effective strategy to ending the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all. As we wrote in July,

No investment in the fight against COVID-19 is more urgent and cost-effective now than an investment in getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible. Even assuming wealthy countries will be fully vaccinated by mid-2021, the global economic cost of not vaccinating lower-income countries is estimated to be $9 trillion per year, or nearly ten percent of global GDP.

However, as of writing, the House-passed BBBA includes a mere $1.3 billion spread across five different pandemic-related priorities, one of which is “expanded vaccine production capacity.”

We were encouraged[ii] by the administration’s recent announcement of efforts to jumpstart further domestic vaccine production using remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan, but we believe the pace and scale of these efforts remain out of sync with the magnitude of the threat that an unvaccinated world poses to American lives, the American economy, and America’s global leadership. While the expansion of vaccine production capacity is expected to deliver dividends over the coming months, experts have flagged that delivery of vaccines and treatment in low- and lower-middle-income countries remain enduring challenges. Additional aid for testing, therapeutics, PPE, ventilators, cold chain capacity, and availability of healthcare workers will save lives around the world and protect America from the next variant. Therefore, we strongly urge the inclusion of no less than $17 billion in the FY22 appropriations omnibus for global vaccination and treatment of COVID-19.

Finally, we reiterate that focusing exclusively on domestic testing, vaccines, and boosters is insufficient to protect us from the virus. The President’s recent proposals to increase U.S. vaccination rates and expand the availability of at-home rapid tests to counter the Omicron variant are welcome, but a comprehensive strategy to protect America from the Omicron variant must include global vaccination and treatment efforts. The time to act was a year ago. We cannot afford to waste another moment and risk the emergence of yet another, even more dangerous variant. It is long past time to end this pandemic.

Respectfully,


[i] REPRESENTATIVES MALINOWSKI, KRISHNAMOORTHI, JAYAPAL, AND SENATORS MERKLEY AND WARREN LEAD 70 COLLEAGUES IN PUSH FOR INCREASED FUNDING FOR GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION OF COVID-19 VACCINE, Press Release (July 23, 2021).

[ii] CO-CHAIRS OF THE COVID-19 GLOBAL VACCINATION CAUCUS WELCOME ADMINISTRATION’S PLANS TO EXPAND VACCINE PRODUCTION CAPACITY, Press Release (November 18, 2021)