The White House defended its America-first COVID-19 vaccination strategy this week, calling it justified because of the country’s terrible outbreak and promising to share shots after Americans are protected.
Global leaders and residents of other countries voice increasing criticism of the United States and other wealthy nations for buying up most of the world’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, has been particularly condemning, saying rich countries are directly responsible for the deaths of high-risk people in low- and middle-income countries.
“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and other at-risk groups in other countries,” he said Monday at a news conference.
As long as the pandemic rages out of control anywhere, he pointed out, variants can emerge that pose risks to those who’ve been infected or vaccinated. “The inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It’s also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating,” Tedros said.
Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, defended the Biden administration’s position Wednesday at a news conference.
“The president has stated his No. 1 priority is to make sure we prioritize vaccination in this country. We’ve suffered over 540,000 deaths – more than anywhere else in the world,” Slavitt said. “He came into office with this seriousness of purpose to make sure that we make this country safe again. We have procured the vaccine supplies, the vaccination sites, increased the number of vaccinators.”