Chairman Clyburn’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on the Urgent Need to Accelerate Global Vaccination Efforts
Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2021) - Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, delivered the following opening statement at the Select Subcommittee’s virtual hearing to examine the immediate need to accelerate global coronavirus vaccination efforts and how this acceleration will benefit America’s pandemic recovery.
Remarks as Delivered
Tragically, in the two years since the coronavirus emerged, there have been more than 270 million infections and over 5.3 million deaths worldwide. Even more tragically, more than a third of these deaths have occurred since lifesaving vaccines became widely available to those of us in the United States and most other highly developed nations.
Nearly 40 percent of people around the world have not yet received even a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine. That’s 3 billion people who remain at far higher risk than they should be.
Some of these 3 billion are those who have been unwilling to get the vaccine. The Select Subcommittee held a hearing on vaccine hesitancy earlier this year, and we continue to examine its causes and seek solutions to increase vaccine uptake. Many others who remain unvaccinated, however, have been among those who have been unable to get the vaccine because it is unavailable in the countries where they live.
Many poor countries around the world have received only a fraction of what those of us in the United States and elsewhere in the West have. 56 countries—largely in Africa and the Middle East—have not been able to vaccinate even 10% of their populations. In some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Haiti, that figure is below one percent.
This inequitable access to coronavirus vaccines is causing unnecessary death and suffering, and we have a moral obligation to save lives by expanding vaccine access.
But ensuring that vaccines are available around the world is not just the right thing to do—it is necessary to protect our own health and our economy.
Experts say that variants are six to eight times more likely to emerge from less developed countries where lagging vaccination rates create opportunities for the virus to mutate. The more that new variants develop, the greater the risk that they will be more infectious, more deadly, and that they will be resistant to the current lifesaving vaccines.
We have learned from this pandemic just how difficult it is to prevent new variants from reaching our shores once they emerge. The best protection is therefore to make sure they do not develop in the first place. By increasing access to vaccines around the globe, we can save lives and protect public health at home.
Helping other countries vaccinate their citizens is also the right thing to do for our economy.
The American economy, like the economies of all nations in the 21st Century, relies on international trade to reach its full potential. Many goods we manufacture here depend on materials sourced elsewhere. Other goods made in the United States are exported and sold to other countries. Outbreaks in those countries hurt American businesses and workers.
Coronavirus surges in Southeast Asia this summer illustrate how connected our economy is to global public health. When Malaysian semiconductor plants shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks, American car companies like Ford and General Motors could not produce new cars. They were therefore forced to suspend work in factories here at home.
American workers and American consumers feel these consequences. As a result of the shutdowns in Malaysia, General Motors was forced to cut production by an estimated 100,000 fewer vehicles in the second half of this year. Outbreaks in Vietnam have similarly hurt the supply of clothing, footwear, and cell phones manufactured by American companies. Global vaccination will help us avoid empty shelves and higher prices here at home.
A fully vaccinated world is critical to the American recovery. In fact, a report commissioned by the Gates Foundation found that high-income countries like the United States could reap economic benefits from global vaccination that are more than 12 times the cost of funding those vaccination efforts.
For all these reasons, I applaud the Biden Administration for its leadership in ensuring vaccines are available around the world.
As reflected in this chart, the United States has donated nearly 300 million vaccine doses and has committed to donate over 800 million more—more than every other country combined. President Biden recently reaffirmed his commitment to help vaccinate the globe—pledging an additional $400 million to help low-income countries administer vaccines, on top of $1.2 billion previously dedicated to global vaccination efforts.
As we face another new coronavirus variant, we call on other countries around the world to step up and follow America’s example.
I would like to thank today’s witnesses for being with us today. I look forward to hearing more about the importance of increasing global vaccinations for both public health and economic strength.