A Republican U.S. senator called on President Joe Biden’s administration to step up its global COVID-19 vaccine efforts, warning that the country is missing a chance “to demonstrate to the world what American leadership looks like.”
Sign up for Devex CheckUp
The must-read weekly newsletter for exclusive global health news and insider insights.
“We have an opportunity right now to do the right thing to help save lives, to do the smart thing in terms of our national security, and to check the rise of the Communist Party of China,” said Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana during a Senate Appropriations hearing Tuesday.
He said it was “dangerous” and “immoral” for the U.S. not to do more.
The ask: Kennedy said Biden should make an announcement “this week” that vaccinating the world will be the single most important foreign policy priority for the rest of the year.
“I’m not talking about 20 million doses here, 10 million there,” Kennedy said, adding that there would be bipartisan congressional support to fund a bigger effort.
“It won’t be popular in some quarters, but we ought to do it anyway,” Kennedy said. “[It] will pay a far greater dividend than anything we can do in terms of summits or foreign aid.”
Why it matters: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who testified at the hearing, responded to Kennedy’s impassioned speech by saying he was “in violent agreement” with the senator. Blinken then said “stay tuned.” With clear indications of bipartisan support for greater action, this request and Blinken’s response prompt questions about what the Biden administration may do next.