Chair DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Leahy, and Vice Chairman Shelby:
We write to ask that you urgently direct supplemental funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations omnibus for American-led efforts to vaccinate the world. For months, we have warned about the likelihood that new, more dangerous variants would emerge in countries with low vaccination rates. For months, we have called strenuously for a well-funded, comprehensive, American-led global vaccination and distribution program, to prevent the emergence of new variants and bring an end to this pandemic. In July, our fears were realized when the Delta variant swept across our nation, stalling our economic recovery and causing tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. Now, the world faces yet another variant, Omicron, which may be even more transmissible than the Delta variant. We must end this cycle by prioritizing getting shots in arms around the world as soon as possible, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries, which do not have the resources to vaccinate their populations.
Even before the Delta variant was widespread in the United States, we led a request [i] for up to $34 billion in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) to fund global vaccination production and distribution--as the most cost-effective strategy to ending the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all. As we wrote in July,
No investment in the fight against COVID-19 is more urgent and cost-effective now than an investment in getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible. Even assuming wealthy countries will be fully vaccinated by mid-2021, the global economic cost of not vaccinating lower-income countries is estimated to be $9 trillion per year, or nearly ten percent of global GDP.
However, as of writing, the House-passed BBBA includes a mere $1.3 billion spread across five different pandemic-related priorities, one of which is "expanded vaccine production capacity."
We were encouraged [ii] by the administration's recent announcement of efforts to jumpstart further domestic vaccine production using remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan, but we believe the pace and scale of these efforts remain out of sync with the magnitude of the threat that an unvaccinated world poses to American lives, the American economy, and America's global leadership. While the expansion of vaccine production capacity is expected to deliver dividends over the coming months, experts have flagged that delivery of vaccines and treatment in low- and lower-middle-income countries remain enduring challenges. Additional aid for testing, therapeutics, PPE, ventilators, cold chain capacity, and availability of healthcare workers will save lives around the world and protect America from the next variant. Therefore, we strongly urge the inclusion of no less than $17 billion in the FY22 appropriations omnibus for global vaccination and treatment of COVID-19.
Finally, we reiterate that focusing exclusively on domestic testing, vaccines, and boosters is insufficient to protect us from the virus. The President's recent proposals to increase U.S. vaccination rates and expand the availability of at-home rapid tests to counter the Omicron variant are welcome, but a comprehensive strategy to protect America from the Omicron variant must include global vaccination and treatment efforts. The time to act was a year ago. We cannot afford to waste another moment and risk the emergence of yet another, even more dangerous variant. It is long past time to end this pandemic.