Together with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), I am writing to request your support for, and co-sponsorship of, the Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Disseminate (NOVID) Act, which will protect people across the United States from the spread of highly infectious and potentially vaccine-resistant variants of COVID-19 by resolving global vaccine supply shortages and helping to end the pandemic once and for all.
PHR has consistently advocated for a science- and rights-based approach to all aspects of the COVID-19 crisis. Toward these ends, PHR has joined a global movement in support of free and equitable vaccine access. PHR’s research highlights staggering inequities in current vaccine allocation and distribution. The dire situation in Kenya illustrates the global inequity we must address: 85 percent of shots that have gone into arms worldwide have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries while only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries like Kenya, where hospitals and clinics continue to suffer from shortages of beds, oxygen, respiratory support, and personal protective equipment. To successfully tackle COVID-19, we must address these inequities and ensure that everyone, everywhere is protected. This is a matter of rights and of good public health practice. The NOVID Act achieves both of these by ramping up vaccine manufacturing to meet global need for a pandemic that will not end until all people are vaccinated and virus variants can no longer proliferate.
Studies aggregated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that vaccination against COVID-19 is highly effective and successfully reduces severe disease, hospitalization, and death. However, there are already several virus variants circulating in the United States. It is imperative that we act quickly to prevent the proliferation of new variants that may increasingly reduce vaccine efficacy. A survey of international epidemiologists found that 66 percent believe that in less than a year, the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines will be rendered ineffective due to variant spread and mutation. At current rates, widespread vaccination will not be achieved across developing nations before 2023, if at all. This is a race against time that the world is currently losing. The devastation wrought by the Delta variant – with COVID-19 cases rising across the United States primarily in unvaccinated populations and exploding in countries with less vaccine protection – is an indication of the dangers of such delays.
The NOVID Act is essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. It establishes the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP), which will oversee the U.S. response in ending the pandemic and coordinate efforts between U.S. agencies, including the Department of State, USAID, CDC, Federal Drug Administration, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Peace Corps, and Department of Labor. The Act allocates $34 billion in funds: $25 billion to scale up global vaccine manufacturing capacity and produce eight billion doses, $8.5 billion to cover end-to-end vaccine delivery and administration, and the remaining $500 million to establish a global disease surveillance network to protect against future pandemics. Without these measures, we will undoubtedly continue to see inequities in vaccine distribution caused by supply shortages and increases in variant spread.
I join PHR in calling on you to co-sponsor the NOVID Act. Through the NOVID Act, the United States will be far more equipped to combat the global spread of COVID-19, work to address vaccine inequity at home and abroad, and prepare effectively for future pandemics.