In an open letter, a group of eminent global business and policy leaders has urged US President Joe Biden to demonstrate a decisive American leadership in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The group of 16 business and policy leaders raised concern over the rampant spread of the virus in places like India and the Philippines, and the likelihood of mutations perpetuating the world if left unchecked.
The US must act now to leverage rapidly increasing US 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, it said. The US support for the intellectual property waiver being promoted by the WTO would make a 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), the letter said.
Observing that the world has come to rely upon the US leadership at times of great strife, the letter said that the ability of the American 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 the US 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, said the letter initiated by Maurice R Greenberg, chairman and CEO of C V Starr & Co.
Prominent signatories to the letter are Ken Langone, chairman of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health; William Cohen; Noel V Lateef from Foreign Policy Association; Carla A Hills; John D Negroponte; John F Maisto; Alexander Feldman and Suzanne Clarke from the US Chamber of Commerce. Your administration has committed USD 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 AstraZeneca 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, the letter said. 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, they added.
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then, the deadly contagion has become a pandemic, affecting more than 159,305,473 people and causing over 3,312,199 deaths worldwide.