jayapal bill

Indian American U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal. (IANS photo)

U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) led more than 40 lawmakers June 4 in urging President Joe Biden to take aggressive and immediate steps to ensure that vaccines are quickly and equitably administered around the world.

The members of Congress called on the White House to take five specific measures — from financial investments to diplomatic efforts — to achieve the goal of a rapid and equitable vaccination program while mitigating COVID-19 globally, according to a press release from Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s office. The letter is being sent ahead of the G7 Summit and at a moment in which wealthy countries have administered more than 80 percent of global vaccines while low-income countries have received just 0.3 percent, it said.

“We urge you to pursue additional steps to advance a bold, comprehensive strategy to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible,” said the lawmakers. “It is imperative that the United States act quickly and deploy every tool in our arsenal. Now is the time to build international cooperation and solidarity in ways we have never seen before, including using the full force of United States diplomacy, economic and commercial leadership, legal authorities, and membership in multilateral institutions. The fate of our own health and safety in the United States is inextricably connected to the wellbeing and protection of the most vulnerable among us worldwide.”

While acknowledging the important steps that the White House has already taken to speed up global vaccine distribution, the lawmakers urged President Biden to immediately implement the following five measures:

Ensure the immediate release of the 80 million doses of the vaccine; allocating the committed doses based on where surging numbers are greatest while also reassessing our stockpile of vaccines to release even more vaccines immediately to countries around the world.

Invest an additional $25 billion in the Build Back Better agenda to authorize the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to oversee the production of 8 billion mRNA vaccine doses; sufficient to vaccinate half the world and one of the quickest ways to increase the immediate supply of vaccines globally. Additionally, account for and deploy towards production the remainder of the $16 million in American Rescue Plan funds allocated for COVID-19 vaccines.

Use all available tools of U.S. influence, persuasion, diplomacy and legal authorities to facilitate the rapid and widespread transfer of technology and expansion of vaccine production; including directing the National Institutes of Health to participate in the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool program, and negotiating and securing vaccine licensing agreements with existing manufacturers to enable broad sharing of vaccine technology and industrial processes to scale up production.

Support a new issuance of Special Drawing Rights — a cost-free International Monetary Fund reserve asset — to help strengthen public-health budgets worldwide and provide low-income countries with resources to import medical supplies and carry out vaccination campaigns while guaranteeing support through the State Department, USAID, and U.S. membership at the WHO, UNICEF, and other agencies to help expand developing countries’ technical capacities and health infrastructure to universally administer vaccines.

Convene a global vaccine summit with world leaders to spur cooperation and coordination in the development, production and distribution of vaccines; encouraging research transparency, open access, and global collaboration in engineering and manufacturing with a goal of accelerating universal vaccination.

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