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3 Reasons Why U.S. Must Pay Its Fair Share to Combat COVID-19 Globally

Both wearing masks, a woman health care worker gives a vaccine to a man.

CARE Bangladesh

CARE Bangladesh

A new joint analysis by CARE and Booz Allen Hamilton makes the case for why investing in global vaccine procurement and delivery is not only the right thing to do but is also economically beneficial to the United States.

The United States faces a choice: Invest $3.7 billion a year for the next three years to ensure vaccines reach the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities worldwide, particularly low-to-middle-income countries, or pay as much as almost $700 billion in continued economic loss if we fail to meet this global challenge.

This is just one of the findings from a new joint analysis by CARE and Booz Allen Hamilton outlining the case for U.S. investment in global COVID-19 vaccinations, particularly when the human and economic toll of the pandemic has already reached devastating levels. No one is safe from the virus until everyone is safe and the U.S. government has a key leadership role to play in a fast and fair vaccine campaign.

Keep reading for three reasons why the U.S. must pay its fair share to combat COVID-19 globally:

1. The economic harm to the U.S. will grow as the pandemic persists globally.

Global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, or lack thereof, will have considerable impact on global economic stability and growth. Therefore, a globally coordinated drive for the production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the hardest-to-reach communities is critical, especially for advanced economies. Wealthy countries have already bought 53% of the most promising vaccines, even though they account for just 14% of the world’s population. If advanced economies are fully vaccinated but the current uncoordinated approach to global vaccine distribution continues, the world risks a global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss of as much as $9.2 trillion in 2021 alone.

Furthermore, up to 49% of this cost will be shouldered by advanced economies, regardless of their own vaccination rates, as these economies have strong incentives to support trading partners in the global supply chain. GDP refers to the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country within a year, and in 2020, the U.S. economy was hit hard by COVID-19 as millions of Americans lost their jobs, consumer spending was down, and sectors like airlines, hospitality, and retail suffered.

International efforts to acquire vaccines for low-to-middle-income countries are lagging, with an estimated $22.1 billion funding gap.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has spent an estimated $6 trillion through legislative and executive actions to accelerate its vaccination efforts and provide financial assistance to millions of Americans. However, CARE knows that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

High-income countries and global development banks must contribute their fair share of funding for equitable vaccine access through global facilities like COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). CARE’s latest report assesses the U.S. fair share at $15-$26 billion to support global vaccine distribution and ongoing support in the outyears. Fortunately, the U.S. has already made a big down payment of $3.7 billion. To cover the remainder of its fair share, the U.S. must stay the course and contribute at least $3.7 billion per year over the next three years, for a total of at least $11.3 billion.

A Black woman wearing blue medical scrubs handles a COVID-19 vaccine.

2. Vaccines are useless without proper delivery systems.

Securing increased funding for vaccination efforts must not only ensure procurement of enough vaccines to cover 20 percent of the population in low-and-middle-income countries but to also cover the cost of delivery, particularly support for frontline health workers, to get vaccines into arms in the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities.

In a recent report, CARE estimates that for every $1 a country or donor government invests in vaccine doses, they need to invest $5 to deliver the vaccine. Half of that cost must go to funding, training, equipping, and supporting health workers — predominantly women — who administer vaccines, run education campaigns, connect communities to health services, and build the trust required for patients to get vaccines.

As an international collaborative, Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) has initiated efforts to acquire vaccines but faces an estimated $19 billion financial shortfall for 2021. Importantly, this shortfall does not include the total cost for safe, secure, and timely distribution.

of frontline health workers worldwide are women.

of frontline health workers worldwide are women.

3. Strengthening health systems long-term will only happen by empowering frontline health workers worldwide.

Women health workers contribute $3 trillion to the global economy every year, but half of this work is unpaid and unrecognized. We cannot keep building health systems on the backs of unpaid or underpaid Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). In the midst of COVID-19, further policy changes are needed to strengthen health systems, particularly increasing investments in and a focus on training, pay, personal protective equipment, and security for frontline health workers delivering the COVID vaccine to the last mile, 70% of whom are women.

It’s also imperative that the U.S. elevate women leaders and ensure that women frontline health workers have meaningful roles in shaping vaccine roll-out plants, policies, and programs at all levels. Women health workers have incredible insights about what is working, what patients are experiencing, and where there are gaps in the system that leaders need to quickly pivot to fill.

CARE knows that a global pandemic requires a global response. Investing in a fast and fair global vaccine distribution will save twice as many lives as maximizing vaccine doses for the wealthiest countries in the world. CARE Action and its advocates are working tirelessly with members of Congress and the U.S. government to ensure that the U.S. invests additional funding for vaccine distribution and equivalent commitments in investment in health systems and health workers to ensure fast and fair rollout of vaccine Lend your voice to the campaign by signing the petition here and read the full policy paper “The Case for U.S. Investment in Global COVID-19 Vaccinations” here.

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