“This is one of the most moral questions of our time,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, said last week. “We cannot let the moment pass. And the United States can recapture its leadership role by taking on what is one of the greatest humanitarian causes ever — and we need to bring this pandemic to an end.”
The landscape is even more challenging now than when Covax was created in April 2020. Some nations in Asia have imposed tariffs and other trade restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines, slowing their delivery. India, home to the world’s largest vaccine maker, has banned coronavirus vaccine exports since April.
At the same time, the Biden administration is preparing to offer booster shots to millions of already vaccinated Americans, despite criticism from World Health Organization officials and other experts who say the doses should go to low- and lower-middle-income countries first. On Friday, a Food and Drug Administration panel recommended Pfizer booster shots for those over 65 or at high risk of severe Covid-19, a broad and ill-defined category. The agency is expected to authorize the shots this week.
Biden administration officials said they are determined to eliminate the disease both at home, including with booster shots, and abroad. “We do understand that this has not been spread around equally,” Erica Barks-Ruggles, the State Department’s senior adviser on international organizations, told reporters on Monday, previewing the U.N. meeting.
Hours later, on a conference call with reporters Monday, the W.H.O.’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, disagreed.