A group of 16 international business and policy leaders today published an open letter to U.S. President Joseph R. Biden calling on him to “demonstrate decisive U.S. leadership now” to combat increasingly deadly Covid-19 outbreaks in Latin America, Europe and Asia.
The letter also expresses opposition to the intellectual property waiver being promoted by the World Trade Organization, saying the move “would make little difference and could do harm” by not considering the steps necessary for safely manufacturing the vaccines.
The letter acknowledges Biden’s intent to donate 60 million doses of U.S. supplies of Astra Zeneca vaccine for global deployment but says more must be done to “turn the tide” of the global pandemic.
“The U.S. must act now to leverage rapidly increasing U.S. domestic vaccine production, export ever-larger volumes of our surplus supplies, and go to work on the massive technical and logistical challenges to vaccine development on a global scale,” the letter says.
The letter notes the rampant spread of the virus in places like India and the Philippines and the concern over mutations that could perpetuate globally if left unchecked.
Initiated by Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of C. V. Starr & Co., Inc., the letter is also signed by: Ken Langone, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health; Secretary William Cohen; Noel V. Lateef, Foreign Policy Association; Ambassador Carla A. Hills; Ambassador John D. Negroponte; Ambassador John F. Maisto; Alexander Feldman, U.S. ASEAN Business Council; Suzanne Clarke, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Michelle McMurray-Heath, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO); Adam S. Posen, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Hank Hendrickson, U.S. Philippines Society; Dr. John J. Hamre, Center for Strategic & International Studies; Dimitri Simes, Center for the National Interest; Ambassador Mark Green; and Dr. Robert Goldberg, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.
The text of the letter follows.
Dear Mr. President:
We stand as a nation in a moment of great consequence. While the United States seems to be gaining control of the pandemic, our allies in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa face increasingly deadly outbreaks that threaten to overwhelm their healthcare systems. Aid and assistance to people in need has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. The world has come to rely upon U.S. leadership at times of great strife. The ability of our government, working in tandem with the private sector, to deliver innovative solutions that save lives and restore peace and stability is the very foundation of U.S. soft power. Today we have a generational opportunity to mobilize vaccine efforts around the world. Our friends and allies will not forget easily if we sit on surplus stockpiles of the most proven vaccines as their citizens suffer and die.
Your Administration has committed $4 billion to Covax, the multilateral effort headed by the WHO to get vaccines into the arms of people in disadvantaged nations. You have also announced your intention to donate 60 million doses of our supply of Astra Zeneca vaccine for global deployment. While these actions are a laudable and necessary start, by themselves they are far too small in scale to turn the tide of the global pandemic. We must do more. This is not only a matter of geopolitics. With the virus teeming unchecked in places like India, the Philippines, and elsewhere, it becomes increasingly possible for dangerous variants to evolve that are resistant to the existing vaccines. Such variants will know no borders.
The U.S. must act now to leverage rapidly increasing U.S. domestic vaccine production, export ever-larger volumes of our surplus supplies, and go to work on the massive technical and logistical challenges to vaccine development on a global scale. U.S. support for the Intellectual Property waiver being promoted by the WTO would make little difference and could do harm. It does not consider the proper materials, equipment, training, and infrastructure necessary to manufacture the vaccine safely and successfully (in addition to being a potential disincentive for future innovation).
We urge you, Mr. President, to demonstrate decisive U.S. leadership now as a critical matter of U.S. foreign policy, humanitarian relief, and global human health.
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