At Hearing, Experts Say Global Vaccination Efforts Are Key to America’s Pandemic Recovery

Dec 14, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2021) —Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hearing to examine the immediate need to accelerate global coronavirus vaccination efforts and how these efforts can save American lives and ensure the smooth continuation of our economic recovery. 

Chairman Clyburn said in his opening statement:

“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. … 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. …  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.”

Today’s witnesses were Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of the College of Public Health and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center; Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, Associate Director for Innovation at Duke Global Health Institute and Associate Professor of Global Health and Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and Director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center; Dr. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland; Dr. Katheryn Russ, Professor in the Department of Economics at University of California, Davis; and the witness invited by the Minority, Dr. Martin Makary, Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Witnesses provided the following remarks during the hearing:

Inconsistent Global Vaccination Rates Have Led to the Persistent Spread of the Coronavirus, Placing Americans and the World at Continued Risk

  • In response to a question from Chairman Clyburn about the importance of global vaccination efforts, Dr. Khan said that it is critical “to protect everyone,” explaining that “[o]therwise, we will continue to have new variants emerge and make their way onto our shores and force us into another cycle of aggressive prevention strategies.” 
  • Dr. Khan noted that major variants—such as Delta and Omicron—that have emerged to date originated outside of the United States.  He cautioned:  “[U]ntil we have [a] global vaccination campaign layered with other public health measures,” such as testing and treatment, “we will be at risk for yet another variant.” 
  • Dr. Udayakumar stated:  “[F]undamentally, to protect Americans, we need to make sure there is a global response.”  Dr. Khan echoed this remark, calling for “a global response to this pandemic if we want to protect Americans and go into this post-pandemic phase.”  He emphasized, “[w]e need to get everybody vaccinated as fast as possible.  And everything we do to increase that speed will increase our transition to post-pandemic and move us back to a better new normal.”

The American Economy Will Benefit from High Global Vaccination Rates

  • Dr. Kalemli-Ozcan testified to the economic benefits of supporting global vaccinations: “Our research shows that vaccinating the other nations is not an act of charity but an act of economic rationality, with a high return on investing in global vaccinations.”  She noted that even if the United States alone were to fund efforts to close the global vaccination gap, we could see “a return [on] investment to the United States of 24 times.”
  • Dr. Russ explained:  “More than 10 million American jobs depend on exports of goods and services to the rest of the world.”  She said that “[c]lose to half of these exports are purchased by developing countries, where the most effective COVID-19 vaccines are harder to come by than here.”

High Global Vaccination Levels Are Needed for a Durable Global Supply Chain

  • Dr. Russ testified that “failing to vaccinate the world as a whole creates a host of supply chain problems.  The lack of availability of effective vaccines overseas has worsened some of the biggest hang-ups that U.S. businesses and consumers are experiencing now.”  She cited a coronavirus outbreak in Malaysia earlier this year, which led to shutdowns that “helped keep prices elevated in domestic car markets, a key driver of the overall inflation facing American consumers over the last few months.”
  • In response to a question about the impact of supporting international vaccination, Dr. Kalemli-Ozcan testified that without supporting efforts “at a global scale, we wouldn’t be able to solve the supply chain issue.”

With the Biden-Harris Administration Leading the World’s Global Vaccination Efforts, Work Continues to Accelerate Vaccine Distribution and Administration

  • Dr. Udayakumar highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership in promoting global vaccination efforts, noting that the Administration “has now donated over 317 million vaccine doses … more than every other country combined.” 
  • During opening remarks, Dr. Udayakumar outlined the “significant progress and U.S. leadership” to date on efforts “to prevent further domestic and global catastrophe” from the coronavirus crisis.  He also emphasized the need for increased global coordination to accelerate vaccinations worldwide.

Click here to read Chairman Clyburn’s opening statement.

Click here to watch the full hearing.


117th Congress