Today, Democrats on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC)–Chairman-designate Don Beyer (D-VA), Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA)—sent a letter to the Biden-Harris Administration urging them to develop a plan for sharing surplus coronavirus vaccine doses equitably with low- and middle-income countries, specifically a plan that includes donating the surplus doses to the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.

While the Biden-Harris Administration’s first priority must be ensuring that all people in the United States who want a vaccine are able to get one as quickly as possible, helping to ensure that those who live in low- and middle-income countries are able to do the same will not only prevent COVID variants from spreading to the United States and other countries, it will also prevent the loss of trillions of dollars to the global economy.

The United States has secured 1.3 billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate 750 million people—more than twice the U.S population. For every $1 spent on supplying vaccines to low-income countries, high-income countries would see a return of $4.80, according to one estimate.

JEC Democrats:

“As of March 8, 2021, high-income countries had purchased 63 percent of the total COVID-19 vaccines that had been purchased worldwide, despite representing only 16 percent of the world’s population. Meanwhile, low- and middle-income countries lag far behind, securing only 37 percent of vaccine despite representing 84 percent of the world’s population.

“This disparity in vaccine access can have profound humanitarian costs. It also threatens global pandemic recovery efforts. The longer it takes for all countries to vaccinate their populations, the more variants will emerge. [And] if governments do not ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, the global economy could lose $1.2 trillion a year.”

Full text of the letter is here and below:

March 15, 2021

Jeffrey Zients
Response Coordinator
White House Coronavirus Task Force
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Zients,

We applaud the Administration’s decision to donate surplus doses to low- and middle-income countries that lack access to COVID-19 vaccines. We write to you today to urge the Administration to develop a plan for donating those surplus doses equitably that includes working through the COVAX initiative. This not only will serve a humanitarian purpose by saving lives worldwide, but it is essential for protecting Americans from the possible proliferation of COVID variants as the virus continues to spread.

The United States has secured 1.3 billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate 750 million people—more than twice the U.S population. We recognize that the Biden Administration’s first priority is to ensure that all people in the United States who want a vaccine are able to get one as quickly as possible. The Administration is making good progress on meeting this objective. As of March 11, 2021, over 98.2 million doses have been administered, and 10 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 19 percent have received at least one dose. The President projects that the United States will have enough vaccine to immunize all American adults by the end of May.

The story is vastly different across the low- and middle-income world, where only a small fraction of people has been vaccinated. This is largely due to profound disparities in the number of vaccines purchased by high-income countries and the rest of the world. As of March 8, 2021, high-income countries had purchased 63 percent of the total COVID-19 vaccines that had been purchased worldwide, despite representing only 16 percent of the world’s population. Meanwhile, low- and middle-income countries lag far behind, securing only 37 percent of vaccine despite representing 84 percent of the world’s population.

This disparity in vaccine access can have profound humanitarian costs. It also threatens global pandemic recovery efforts. As emphasized by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “if the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the global South, it will mutate again and again…prolong[ing] the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the global North.” The longer it takes for all countries to vaccinate their populations, the more variants will emerge.

Inequitable global vaccination efforts will also negatively impact the economy. If governments do not ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, the global economy could lose $1.2 trillion a year. For every $1 spent on supplying vaccines to low-income countries, high-income countries would see a return of $4.80, according to one estimate.

We recognize and applaud the Administration’s efforts to date to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, in particular the $4 billion contributed to COVAX. To stave off further loss of life and suffering and end this pandemic for good, more must be done to ensure the battle against COVID-19 is won globally.

For these reasons, we believe it is imperative that the Administration begin to chart its plan for donating surplus vaccine supply to low- and middle-income countries. To ensure equitable distribution of the surplus doses to the countries that need it most, we strongly recommend that the Administration’s plan include donating the surplus vaccine to COVAX.

As your partners in Congress, we look forward to working with you and the rest of the Biden Administration to ensure national and global pandemic recovery efforts are as equitable and effective as possible.

Sincerely, 

Don Beyer
Chairman-designate, Joint Economic Committee
Member of Congress

Mark Pocan
Member of Congress

Scott Peters
Member of Congress