President Biden has pledged to make FDA-authorized Covid-19 vaccines available to all Americans. As we recognize the remarkable achievement of the United States having administered over 340 million doses in a few short months, we reflect on those who are still waiting their turn, many of whom are part of our Democrats Abroad community. Americans remain Americans wherever they live, whether in Texas, Tennessee, Thailand, or Tanzania.
While Americans living in Canada, the United Kingdom, and certain other countries may already be included in successful national vaccination programs, significant numbers live in countries where vaccination efforts are limited by supply, where U.S. FDA-approved vaccines remain unavailable, or where foreigners are not treated on equal terms with local citizens.
The Democrats Abroad Covid-19 Task Force was formed to address this critical situation and advocate that the U.S. government fulfil its pledge to vaccinate all Americans by providing Americans overseas with access to FDA-authorized Covid-19 vaccines in their countries of residence.
View a video from Americans abroad who are in need of vaccines here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9lakugrkQc
Two Separate and Complementary Solutions
Vaccinating overseas Americans is completely separate and distinct from the U.S. demonstrating moral and global leadership by donating vaccines via COVAX or through bilateral agreements – something that we believe most Americans abroad strongly support. But also providing vaccines directly to Americans abroad is not “attaching strings” to those donations – nothing needs to be asked in return. In fact, by vaccinating Americans with a separate and direct allocation, the U.S. would effectively free up tens or hundreds of thousands of doses for use by the host country’s own citizens, and avoid the diversion of limited hospital resources to Americans who might otherwise contract the virus.
The Problem with Existing Options
Returning to the U.S. for vaccinations can be a challenge for many because of health, timing, and cost. Long-distance travel (especially risky if unvaccinated) is simply not an option for disabled veterans and other retirees on a pension, employees, or small business owners unable to take two months’ leave, parents with school-age children, NGO workers, and others. Many countries also require an expensive, self-financed quarantine upon return.
In addition, travel to the U.S. by large numbers of unvaccinated Americans from countries where Covid-19 case numbers are rising and highly transmissible variants are rampant may pose serious risks to the health and security of Americans at home. The State Department’s own travel advisory suggests reconsidering travel to many of the same countries that have little or no effective vaccine penetration - but where many Americans live.
Proven Ability to Get It Done
The U.S. government has successfully demonstrated its ability to vaccinate Americans in the far corners of the world. The State Department has successfully vaccinated tens of thousands of Foreign Service personnel, their families, and local staff around the world. The Defense Department has also administered over one million doses at dozens of international facilities. Some countries will clearly be more challenging than others, but as noted in the recent letter from Senators Murphy and Moran to Secretary Blinken and cosigned by 24 other Senators (https://www.murphy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/vaccinating_amcits_letter.pdf), coordination with the Defense Department could facilitate the process of getting vaccines to all American citizens abroad who want them. Outsourcing delivery of the jabs to local hospitals is also a viable option in many countries, an approach successfully taken by the French government in vaccinating their citizens abroad. Senator Murphy has also introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 2297, requiring the government to describe how it will provide vaccines to Americans overseas who do not have access to FDA or WHO approved vaccines. That amendment has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is now part of the legislation being considered.
This is an issue of global public health and national security. Americans abroad are taxpayers, voters, and proud to be Americans, representing our country in business, in education, via NGOs, or simply as individuals whose lives and family circumstances have led them to reside overseas. The U.S. has sufficient supply of FDA-authorized vaccines and the proven logistical resources to fulfill the President’s promise to vaccinate all Americans. We Can Do This.
What You Can Do
- Alert your Members of Congress: Call and write your U.S. representative and U.S. senators alerting them to this issue and urging them to publicly voice their support of the Murphy-Moran letter.
- Make a video: If you live overseas and are not vaccinated, please take a few minutes to record a video on your phone using the script and instructions here.
- Educate others: Most Americans in the U.S. are not aware of the difficulties Americans abroad face in regard to getting vaccinated. Please tell your friends and relatives in the U.S. about this situation and urge them to write and call their Members of Congress expressing their concern
- Alert the press: Reach out to news outlets, such as TV stations and newspapers, in your hometown or wherever you have ties, to suggest a story on Americans abroad without access to vaccines. Get your friends and family members to do the same. The more we raise the profile of this issue, the better chance we stand.
- Advocate for veterans: Many veterans have retired or live overseas. If you are a veteran or know others who are, be sure to raise the issue of veterans who cannot get vaccinated with your Members of Congress or with the press.
- Join DA’s Covid-19 Task Force: Send an email to [email protected] to be notified of the next weekly Zoom meeting.