US criticized for its ‘America First attitude’ as search for COVID-19 vaccine continues 

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The world’s wealthiest countries have long had access to the best medical treatments, creating a global health disparity, where some developing nations struggle to get the supplies they need.

But ethics experts are worried the United States is worsening that situation at a time when nearly every country is battling the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The US government recently bought one of the only known treatments, remdesivir, leaving other governments unable to buy any new doses for at least 3 months. And it’s not just treatments America is targeting in the race to provide for its citizens.

The United States is stocking up to make sure it’s ready when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. It means syringes are already in high demand.

As our US Correspondent Nick Harper reports from Washington, United States is accused of buying, hoarding vaccines:

VP Strategic Supplier Engagement of Premier, Chaun Powell says, “As a country, we’re anticipating those needs, and getting out ahead of them and placing the orders to be prepared.”

One hospital supply-purchasing company, reports the US government has ordered 870 million syringes. That’s enough to allocate roughly 3 syringes to every person in America. Even if they’re not all used, there’s no guarantee the US would be prepared to share.

“We really are trying to do everything we can to make sure we’re well prepared, which means we have to have that inventory available and on hand. Should we find ourselves on the other side where we do an excess, I’m fairly certain we’d do everything we could to help the global population,” Powell added.

Bulk orders

Premier has seen bulk orders rise, with around 90% of hospitals ordering enough painkillers and sedatives to furnish them with at least a month’s back-up supply.

The US is also betting big on seven companies that are developing vaccines, awarding them with almost $4 billion in funding, which should secure the government first access to any eventual vaccines.

But ethical experts are concerned about the nationalistic spirit that’s accompanying America’s spending spree.

Founder, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Dr. Ruth R Faden says, “We do not have currently a government in place who is concerned with maintaining an appropriate relationship with the rest of the world from what many consider an ethics standpoint.”

Dr Faden argues disparities between countries already exist – the pandemic has magnified them.

Faden says, “Prioritising the interests of your own residents does not extend to the point at which you are really making it impossible for other countries to honor their similar obligations to their own citizens. So ok do the best you can for your citizens, but not to the point where you’re really pricing everybody out of the market, or consuming all of the supply chains.”

Dr Faden and other public health experts believe buying and hoarding will only intensify as companies get nearer to releasing a vaccine. They say rather than an America First attitude, the global pandemic calls for cooperation and collaboration. –Reporting by Nick Harper