If U.S. Develops a COVID-19 Vaccine, Many Americans Want Other Countries in Need to Get it First

A majority of Americans would want a coronavirus vaccine to be provided to those who need it most in the world, and half would support a U.S.-developed vaccine being rolled out globally even if it meant some citizens not getting it first, a poll has found.

In a survey of 1,187 people in the U.S., carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Wellcome Trust, respondents were found to support international collaboration of treatments and vaccinations against COVID-19.

The poll found 83 percent of Americans think governments should work together to make sure drugs to stop the virus are manufactured by as many countries as possible and distributed across the world to everyone in need.

Eighty-one percent said treatments and vaccines should first be provided to people in parts of the world that need them most.

According to Johns Hopkins University, over 5.1 million people have now had COVID-19, and over 333,000 have died from it. Over 100 vaccines are currently being developed across the globe, with several human trials either having started or preparing to start.

But what happens when an effective vaccine is developed? While there are widespread calls for global cooperation, some have raised concerns about "vaccine nationalism." Successful countries could, potentially, use it for political leverage and economic gain.

The latest poll, however, suggests people in America want the government to cooperate with other world leaders to put an end to the pandemic.

Respondents were asked about what they think should happen if and when coronavirus treatments and vaccines become available.

Findings showed 68 percent do not think they should be provided to people who can afford them first.

Opposition to providing treatments to those who can afford them first was highest among people over the age of 55 (79 percent) and lowest among adults aged between 18-24 (46 percent.)

Almost three-quarters of respondents (73 percent) said governments should not use vaccines and treatments to gain from them through international trade or diplomatic negotiations.

Support for this was again highest among those over 55 (82 percent) and lowest among 18 to 24-year-olds (50 percent.)

"We need vaccines and treatments that will work for the world, and any advances must be available to all countries equally, without exception," Alex Harris, Head of Global Policy at Wellcome, said in a statement.

"Equitable access cannot be achieved by one organization or one country alone. It requires collective action on a global scale, with each country that has manufacturing capacity prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable everywhere.

"No country should consider reserving possible future vaccines and treatments for their use only. These results clearly show that this approach would not be supported by the people of the U.S.

"No matter where they are developed or who funded them, all tests, medicines and vaccines for COVID-19 need to be available and affordable to everyone in the world who needs them."

Writing for Newsweek, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said no country in the world will be able to return to normality until the pandemic is brought to an end.

"Securing a vaccine for the world is not just a matter of altruism: it is in every country's best interest to work together," he said.

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Stock image of a syringe and an American flag. Most people in the U.S. want a coronavirus vaccine distributed to those who need it most first. iStock