The United States’ clear path out of COVID

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2021 - 12:00am

In less than 120 days, the Biden administration was able to turn things around and reverse the pandemic situation in the United States. This was highlighted in President Biden’s remarks last Thursday, saying it was “a great day for America” as the tide has turned in its battle against COVID-19: 250 million vaccine shots in 114 days; cases down in 49 out of the 50 states; coronavirus caseloads at their lowest since September; and the number of deaths fewer compared to April last year.

President Biden surpassed his campaign promise of 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, increasing the goal to 150 million and then upping it to 200 million, which his administration achieved a week ahead of the target date. Close to 118 million adult Americans or almost 36 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated, while 154 million or almost 60 percent of the population have received their first shot – bringing the US closer to its goal of having at least 70 percent of the population inoculated with at least one shot by July 4, the 245th anniversary of US Independence.

There is no doubt the new administration’s sheer determination to go all out in fighting the pandemic has literally turned things around from where they were last year, when thousands of deaths daily made it reach close to 600,000 American casualties. The US also previously held the global record for the biggest number of infections per day.

“We’ve gone from stagnation to an economy that is growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. We’ve gone from an anemic job creation to a record for job creation for a new administration,” President Biden said, pointing out that “all of this is the product of prompt action to roll out the vaccine and boost our economy.”

There is no doubt the US vaccines have been extremely effective, so much so that the US CDC has eased restrictions, issuing new guidelines saying that fully vaccinated Americans will no longer need to wear masks indoors and outdoors (clarifying, however, that wearing masks are still required in hospitals, airports, stations and on airplanes, trains and buses).

Clearly, the US is now on its path back to normal with the rollout of the vaccines which have proven to be extremely effective. This was underscored when President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and staff shed their masks during a celebratory event at the White House Rose Garden.

What is happening in the United States definitely proves that this pandemic will be over sooner than later with a continuous and efficient vaccine rollout. In the Philippines, our perseverance is paying off because the supply of these US-made vaccines will soon become more readily available with the recent signing by Secretary Galvez of a supply deal for 40 million Pfizer vaccines, along with the 20 million Moderna vaccines we have secured earlier.

As previously mentioned, these vaccines will start arriving in June and will be coming in droves by the second quarter all the way to the end of the year. Like the US, I have no doubt we will be able to manage and control this COVID virus as more vaccines get into people’s arms while we continue to comply with mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and other minimum health protocols. But definitely, the only way is herd immunity by vaccinating at least 70 percent of our population.

Similar to the Philippines, other countries are also looking to the US for their vaccines. I recently had a conversation with a State Department official who said they are already making plans on how they will be able to supply the rest of the world not only through the COVAX Facility but by other means as the demand continues to ease up in the US.

The other day during my meeting with House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces chairman, Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney of Connecticut, he agreed that the US should begin looking at supplying the world with vaccines to fight this pandemic. I told him the US has in its arsenal a weapon that is more effective than a nuclear warhead: their vaccines to save lives. Congressman Courtney told me he had just met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne who also said almost exactly the same thing.

As USAID administrator Samantha Power emphasized, the US has the ability to show its leadership and prove itself as an indispensable nation that can do good “by demonstrating its ability to deliver in many countries’ hour of greatest need.”

In an open letter to President Biden initiated by C.V. Starr chairman and US-Philippines Society honorary chairman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg together with a group of well-known international business and policy leaders, they wrote: “The world has come to rely upon US leadership at times of great strife,” stressing that “aid and assistance to people in need has been a hallmark of US foreign policy for well over a century.”

The US is expected to be speeding up global vaccination efforts to turn the tide of the pandemic, especially with allies facing deadly outbreaks and dangerous variants that threaten to overwhelm these countries’ health care systems. Greenberg and the other signatories urged President Biden to “demonstrate decisive US leadership now as a critical matter of US foreign policy, humanitarian relief and global human health.”

We can all take comfort in the fact that there is a clear path towards a normal life for all of us. This nightmare will soon be over.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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