Sweden's vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström has voiced his disappointment with the US approach to vaccination, which he called “America First”.
While hailing the international vaccine rollout as “a triumph of human cooperation”, he berated the US for closing its borders and disallowing the export of vaccines, in stark contrast to the EU nations.
“It came like a bolt from the blue when the US forbade the export of vaccines, even though doses started to go to Mexico and Canada last week,” Bergström told the news outlet Bulletin.
According to Bergström, this approach is tantamount to “vaccine nationalism” and threatens future cooperation.
“I think it may feel right, in the short term, to close its borders and have your own citizens vaccinated first. But in the long run, it's a disaster. This pandemic will not be a one-time event. Now we have seen these mutations appear. So far, we know that existing vaccines work on them. But what happens when we get a mutation that existing vaccines do not control?” Bergström mused.
“That's 'America first'. The New York Times recently wrote that there are 30 million Astra Zeneca doses just waiting. There are no scheduled plans for them to go out. Yesterday I saw media reports that there were 90 million doses just waiting to be launched. They are unused”, Bergström said, calling it a “scandal”.
The EU, he emphasised, went a completely different way, receiving 80 million doses and exporting almost 80 million doses simultaneously.
According to Bergström, “vaccine nationalism” undermines trust and limits the ability to jointly combat possible mutations.
“Who will be able to trust the United States in the future? And will we be able to trust the UK?”, he mused, alluding to AstraZeneca's delivery problems and contract controversy. Earlier in March, AstraZeneca informed Brussels that the UK was using a clause in its supply contract that prevents exports of its vaccines until the British market is fully served.
In the US, nearly 110 million people or 33 percent of the population have received at least one dose, with nearly 60 million or 18 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
In the UK, nearly 32 million people (22 percent of the population) have been given the first dose, with 6 million (4 percent) being fully inoculated.
Sweden has managed to inoculate about 13 percent of its 10-million-strong population with the first dose; 5.5 percent are fully vaccinated. However, it recently delayed its initial goal to vaccinate its adult population as well as children in the risk groups before mid-summer to due to lags in vaccine delivery.