September 22, 2021

Please see below for a statement from Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Georgetown University Law Center:

President Biden’s COVID-19 Summit at the UN General Assembly today demonstrates extraordinary U.S. global leadership, and his targets represent a huge step forward. Yet, it will still take years to fully vaccinate the world. 

The world’s leaders must build on today’s summit with the utmost urgency and accountability for making progress. And here is what Biden needs to do next to make America and the world safer. 

The president should donate the expected approximately hundreds of millions surplus doses by end of the year and accelerate donation of the 1 billon Pfizer doses. But donations aren’t enough. People in less wealthy countries have equal rights to life-saving vaccines and should not have to rely on Western goodwill. From intellectual property waivers through WTO to robust vaccine delivery infrastructure, the U.S. and world leaders must empower low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines. Countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America could produce their own mRNA vaccines but need Western vaccine companies to transfer technology and know-how.

As of now, only 2% of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose. Along with other wealthy countries, we are among those most responsible for today’s inequities. We have a moral and human rights obligation to help vaccinate the rest of the world as soon as possible. 

With COVID-19 still raging and the risk of dangerous new variants ever present, doing anything less than doing everything we can to vaccinate the world would be a grave mistake, and will come back to haunt us.

++++

For further comment or to schedule an interview, please contact Cynthia Sun at Cynthia.Sun@georgetown.edu or 678-677-0863.