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EDITORIAL: The absurdity of revoking global Covid aid!

America’s quest to vaccinate the globe against COVID is about to come to an end. ‘We are now at a stage where, in the absence of new money, we will have to begin winding down our programming,’ said Jeremy Konyndyk, the leader of the United States Agency for International Development’s COVID-19 task group. Such financing does not appear to be forthcoming. Our heinous dysfunctional politics will cause more disease and death throughout the world, and we’re raising the chances that a new viral mutation could upend American life once more. If it does, we may name it the filibuster variation.

This kind of self-sabotage is difficult to comprehend for a body as damaged and ineffective as Congress. ‘The greatest danger we face both nationally and worldwide is the introduction of new varieties,’ Konyndyk added. Such variations, he believes, are more likely to occur in chronically immunocompromised populations, such as persons living with HIV or TB; since they have difficulty eliminating the coronavirus, it remains and has more opportunity to evolve.

The Democrats made a mistake last month when they removed a $15.6 billion COVID aid package from the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending measure due to internal squabbles. Senate Republicans insisted that the COVID funding come from previously allocated but unspent funds. As a result, congressional leaders crafted a plan that would use $7 billion from monies put aside for state and local governments in last year’s American Rescue Plan.

House Democrats, as well as governors from both parties, had ample reason to complain because state and local politicians had planned their budgets on that money. Twenty states received their American Rescue Plan funds all at once, while the remaining 30 states were expected to get it in two installments. These states were suddenly faced with significant budget cuts.

‘A bunch of House members said no, we’re not going to vote to slash our own state budgets and then have to go home and explain why,’ said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to withdraw COVID funding from the omnibus package after a mutiny among her own members. But if House Democrats assumed they’d get another chance to negotiate international COVID money, they misjudged the Republican Party’s nihilism.

Because of the filibuster, Senate Democrats need 10 Republicans to approve a stand-alone COVID measure, and Republicans are opposed to further funding for overseas COVID initiatives. ‘I’m honestly struggling,’ said Chris Coons, a Democratic senator renowned for his devotion to bipartisanship, of attempting to reach an accord. He depicts a fundamental schism among the caucuses on the threat presented by COVID. According to Coons, some of his Republican colleagues have informed him, ‘We’re done with this plague.’

Because they are generally unconcerned about whether extra COVID funding is approved, some Republicans have used it as leverage in their desire for tighter border policy. They are refusing to authorize any further COVID money unless the administration reinstates Title 42, a program implemented in 2020 to quickly deport migrants without allowing them to petition for asylum, all in the guise of preserving public health.

USAID financing is not fungible – the agency cannot simply move resources from other programs to maintain its vaccine program or begin giving antivirals like Paxlovid. Coons sought to persuade Republicans to give the agency emergency power to shift its own money around to handle the epidemic as a last-ditch effort, but he couldn’t get enough of them on board.

As a result of this obstinacy, many of the vaccination doses that America has already provided may go to waste. There is no longer a worldwide vaccination deficit; the issue is that many nations lack the infrastructure needed to transport and administer them. The Senate standoff, according to Coons, implies that we will not be able to provide millions of vaccination doses that we have already paid for. Coons believes that once the Senate returns from recess in three or four weeks, there will be a breakthrough. However, it is difficult to continue initiatives that have been halted, and in the meanwhile, we are jeopardizing both our own health and the health of others all around the world.

There’s also a political consequence to quitting COVID for the rest of the globe. In an era of resurgent great-power rivalry, America’s successful vaccines might provide us a diplomatic advantage. According to Coons, ‘both Russia and China made large fanfares about supplying planeloads of vaccinations to dozens of impoverished countries last year. These vaccinations are ineffective against omicron. Our immunizations are effective’.


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