Delta Variant Demonstrates Risk of Ignoring Global COVID Vaccine Production Needs

While access to COVID vaccines and treatments is increasingly widespread in communities throughout the United States, huge numbers of people throughout the world will have to wait years longer for access to COVID vaccines unless global production is dramatically increased. Of the five billion doses of vaccine administrated to date, 85% has gone to just ten countries. Many countries do not have any vaccine available. The poorest countries may not receive sufficient doses until 2024, if ever.

The failure to greatly increase supplies and the resulting critical shortfall of vaccines and treatments in low- and middle-income nations is directly responsible for enabling COVID variants to develop and spread worldwide.

As the Delta variant now surges globally, it is threatening the progress the country has made fighting the coronavirus. The United States now leads the world in the daily average number of new infections reported with 67,7222 new cases reported per day during the last week of July.  Our families’ health, our children’s ability to have a normal school year, our ability to go to work and our nation’s economic recovery are all at risk.

Earlier this spring, as domestic vaccination rates increased, many had hoped the U.S. had turned a corner on the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the last few weeks have shown us that there simply is no way  that Americans can somehow be safe while variants are allowed to rage in the rest of the world where people are left with no vaccines or treatments.

The Delta variant first emerged in India — one of many nations suffering from a severe shortage of COVID vaccines.  Nearly a year ago, India, South Africa and other developing countries requested an emergency waiver of certain Trade-Related Intellectual Property rules at the World Trade Organization so that COVID vaccines, test kits and treatments could be produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible.  Ever since, a small number of rich countries, bowing to pharmaceutical industry pressure to protect their intellectual property monopolies, have blocked that “TRIPS waiver” from being approved — thus significantly limiting the supply of COVID vaccines and treatments available globally.

In May 2020, President Biden very commendably reversed U.S. opposition to the TRIPS waiver for COVID vaccines.  A number of other countries followed his example.  But a few nations, led by Germany and the European Union, have continued to block the waiver.

To stop new COVID variants and end the pandemic, Jeff Zients — the person President Biden chose to coordinate the U.S. domestic and international COVID response program — needs to step up to the urgency of this moment and immediately:

  • Use all available means to press the European Union and others to end their opposition to the TRIPS waiver and secure swift passage of a comprehensive final waiver agreement;
  • Speed up the ability of existing facilities to start producing vaccines by making companies share the recipes and technology used to make all vaccines developed with public funding; and
  • Launch a global manufacturing plan to increase and democratize vaccine production capacity with the creation of as many new facilities required to meet the global need.

TAKE ACTION: Please sign our petition urging White House COVID Czar Jeff Zients to prioritize expanding global vaccine supplies.