The US will soon have more Covid-19 vaccines on hand than it wants to inoculate its own people. The surplus should be distributed to developing nations. And, to change a slogan on its head, Mexico First should be the highest priority.
It’s impossible to imagine a vaccine surplus. The pandemic’s prevailing narrative has been one of scarcity. We never seem to have enough, from personal protective devices to ventilators and Covid checks to the vaccine’s launch.
In the case of vaccinations, though, we’re likely to go from having too few to having too many — and very quickly.
In reality, President Joe Biden recently stated that by the end of May, the United States will have enough vaccines for every adult.
The United States now has enough of the three FDA-approved vaccines to deliver 800 million doses in the United States, thanks to the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine. This is enough to vaccinate at least 500 million people, almost double the population goal. Add in the more than 500 million optional Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses, as well as the 200 million doses of French Sanofi and US Novavax vaccines pending FDA approval.
As a result, we’ll need a strategy on what to do next. We can’t throw away a life-saving surplus.
The coronavirus didn’t end at national borders, and the vaccine shouldn’t either. We must share our wellbeing.
Why should Mexico be at the front of the line? There are many explanations for this, ranging from structural to geopolitical.
Mexico, for starters, is behind the curve when it comes to vaccine distribution. Mexico’s population is not expected to be completely immunized until March 2022 at the earliest. That’s eight months behind the United States, a time gap that is hazardous to both Mexico and its neighbor.
Next, as the Covid-19 crisis demonstrated, we are all intertwined. Although a key partner remains hampered by the virus, US manufacturing in key sectors such as automotive, electronics, and machinery will not fully recover.
The pounding of Mexico’s economy would also dampen demand for the more than $250 billion in US exports sent to the country’s largest market. It is in our economic interests to help Mexico get back on its feet as quickly as possible.
Then there’s the issue of public health. With an estimated 350 million legal border crossings annually, we share a nearly 2,000-mile permeable border with our southern neighbor.
Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Americans cross the border every day to visit, work, and shop. The longer Mexico’s population remains unvaccinated, the greater the likelihood that a new virus mutation or strain will arise and infect people in the United States.
Not to mention that Mexico acts as a major transit point for thousands of Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Mexico’s robust vaccination services will ensure that all migrants who make it to and across the US-Mexico border are completely inoculated.
Vaccinating Mexico will also assist in countering Chinese and Russian “mask diplomacy” in the region. Both countries have made ambitious offers to provide personal protective devices as well as their own vaccinations, ostensibly to embarrass the United States in our own backyard.
Last but not least, the Biden administration needs strategies to boost relations with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO has directly asked Biden for vaccines, and the subject was brought up again at the start of their first official (virtual) meeting on March 1. The Biden administration has officially denied the proposal for assistance so far. That is a blunder.
“When the United States sneezes, Mexico gets a cough,” the metaphor goes. In an age of global pandemics, the reverse is true: Mexico’s wellbeing is a top priority for the United States.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the best thing to do. Let’s hope our elected officials in Washington realize this.