The US will not participate in a worldwide effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine — in part because the initiative is being led by the World Health Organization, the White House announced Tuesday.
President Trump has expressed confidence in US efforts to develop a vaccine and has been harshly critical of the WHO, chastising the international health organization for its “China-centric” approach to the pandemic.
“Under President Trump’s leadership vaccine and therapeutic research, development, and trials have advanced at unprecedented speed to deliver groundbreaking, effective medicines driven by data and safety and not held back by government red tape,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said, The Hill reported.
“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” Deere added.
He said the president “will spare no expense to ensure that any new vaccine maintains our own FDA’s gold standard for safety and efficacy.”
But critics warned that the decision could deny the US access to a global pool of potential vaccines if they are developed overseas by one of the 170 nations taking part in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access — or COVAX — effort.
“From a global health perspective it’s a very unwise decision,” Andrea Feigl-Ding, CEO of the Health Finance Institute, told The Hill. “It’s symptomatic of a death culture. That’s a strong word, but us versus them helps no one.”
The WHO and other global health agencies launched COVAX to ensure that developing nations are not kept out of the loop if a vaccine is developed in wealthier countries, the Washington Post reported.
Nearly every other country in the world, including traditional US allies like Japan and the European Union, are participating in the effort.
“When the US says it is not going to participate in any sort of multilateral effort to secure vaccines, it’s a real blow,” Suerie Moon, co-director of the Geneva-based Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, told the outlet.
“The behavior of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health,” Moon said. “It’s about, are you a reliable partner, or, at the end of the day, are you going to keep all your toys for yourself?”