Donald Trump’s days in the White House are numbered, but that has not stopped him from advancing his administration’s ‘America First’ approach.
The outgoing President wants to limit the world’s access to a coronavirus vaccine so that Americans take priority and are first in line to get the jab.
He held a vaccine summit at the White House on Wednesday morning (Australian time) and signed an executive order.
It was to ensure “Americans have first priority to receive American vaccines”, Mr Trump said.
According to US Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, it might take until the second quarter of 2021 for that to happen.
It was expected the order would prevent international access to a vaccine until the day every American has received the shot.
The US government intends for the order to take away the responsibility for the superpower to help countries around the world, particularly those that are not as financially well off, with getting their hands on vaccine supplies.
An administration official was quoted by Fox News as saying: “The priority is to make sure we distribute these vaccines to Americans before we start shipping them around the world to get international access.”
On Wednesday, Mr Trump said the US would be able to work with other countries “almost immediately” because it has “millions of doses coming in”.
But the administration had said the executive order directed prioritising access to Americans ahead of working with partners and allies for access to the vaccine, and that international assistance could come in the northern hemisphere’s late spring or early summer.
But what power does Mr Trump actually hold in determining when citizens of other countries will get vaccinated?
The executive order will largely affect low-income countries that need America’s help in procuring the vaccine.
The order will be accompanied by a framework for how the US’s Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for International Development, International Development Finance Corp and Export-Import Bank are to interact with foreign countries until Americans have had the shots.
There has been no mention of agreements that limit the ability of US-based companies to distribute supplies around the world when they become available.
Administration officials say that when there is excess supply, the US will start to “leverage resources” to help other countries get access to a vaccine and garner “ancillary supplies necessary to administer and track”.
But Australia, much like China and Britain, does not need the help.
Australia has its own agreements with private companies and has four potential COVID vaccines to choose from, each of which is set to be manufactured outside the US.
- The University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine will be produced in Australia at CSL’s biologics facility in Broadmeadows, Victoria;
- The Novavax vaccine will be manufactured in locations across Europe;
- The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be manufactured in the US, Belgium and Germany;
- The Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine will be manufactured at the CSL’s manufacturing facility in Broadmeadows, Victoria.
Australia also gave $120 million to be part of a global agreement with the COVAX Facility that will ensure it gets access to different coronavirus vaccines as they become available.
That includes the Moderna vaccine, which was recently shown to be 95 per cent effective on high-risk and elderly people.