WASHINGTON D.C. (7News) — As Americans prepare for President Joe Biden’s declared “summer of freedom," health experts say not so fast.
Georgetown Law Professor Lawrence Gostin tells 7News that the country is not in the clear. Though nearly 67% of U.S. adults have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and cases are dropping, the Delta variant is spreading and many people and children under 12 are still unvaccinated.
“Victory is not ours yet,” Gostin told Health Reporter Victoria Sanchez during a Friday afternoon Zoom interview.
And victory for low and middle-income countries is not even in sight as nations struggle to purchase vaccine doses and COVID cases and deaths soar.
SEE ALSO | Study: Moderna, Pfizer vaccines may ward off COVID for years, not months
“We’re seeing a very divided world between the haves and the have nots,” he explained.
As vaccine demand plateaus in the U.S., supply is at a surplus. Gostin said around 15% of the global vaccine supply is in the hands of low and middle-income countries, though they account for nearly 40% of the world’s population.
“I believe this is one of the greatest moral failures of our lifetime,” said Gostin.
While the U.S. is sending shots to other countries and Biden pledged 500 million doses to help poorer nations, Gostin said it is a “drop in the ocean” compared to what’s needed. Mexico and other South American countries close to the U.S. are getting more supplies from overseas.
“Russia and China are sending our neighbors vaccines. Our neighbors don’t trust the Russian and Chinese vaccines, but they really have no choice,” Gostin explained.
It’s health diplomacy with a catch.
RELATED | Health experts weigh in on vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds
“China’s figured that out a long time ago. They use their vaccines and PPE and other supplies as a weapon against other countries to gain influence over those countries. The United States is not that kind of country. We don’t demand favors in return for our philanthropy. But what we do need to do is make sure that countries understand that we care, that we have their back.”
Gostin said it’s not just a moral obligation, the United States should send vaccines and other medical aid to avoid future political problems.
“If we show a callousness, that we’ve got a miracle prevention, a once in a century prevention, and we don’t share it fairly, and especially when we have surpluses, people won’t forget,” he said.
Watch the full interview with Gostin below: