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Three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. government should start donating Covid-19 vaccines to other countries, but only after every person in the U.S. who wants a vaccine has received one, according to a new survey from STAT and The Harris Poll.

At the same time, just over half of Americans said they agree with the idea that the Biden administration should immediately start donating vaccines to other countries in order to achieve global herd immunity, which reflects growing concern that the coronavirus cannot be contained until most of the world is vaccinated.

“The data says that most everybody is on the same page — Americans clearly prioritize ensuring they get vaccinated as a top priority,” said Rob Jekielek, managing director at The Harris Poll, which queried 1,963 people between April 9 and 11. “But you also have a really good chunk of the population who also believes we need to put a global lens on the issue.”


The poll asked whether Americans agreed or disagreed with three notions: start donating vaccines immediately, start donating vaccines once everyone in the U.S. has been vaccinated, or skip donations altogether.

Not surprisingly, there are diverging views among different slices of those polled. More members of Gen Z and millennials — 59% and 65%, respectively — than middle-aged or older Americans believe the U.S. government should start to immediately donate Covid-19 vaccines to other countries. And 63% of Democrats support immediate donations, compared with just 43% of Republicans.


Meanwhile, 48% of those surveyed believe the U.S. government should not donate vaccines to other countries at all, and keep a stockpile instead. Many more Republicans — 58% to be exact — agreed with this position, compared with 44% of Democrats. This revealed something of a dichotomy among Republicans, given that 52% of Republicans polled indicated they are hesitant to get vaccinated or do not plan to do so.

“Republicans appear a little bit torn,” said Jekielek. “They’ve expressed skepticism and hesitancy toward vaccines, but on the other hand, some acknowledged there is a value to having a stockpile. And that sentiment fits in with the idea that, first and foremost, many people are saying we should take care of the U.S. first.”

The responses also appear to reflect confidence in the way the federal government is handling vaccination. Two-thirds of Americans say the campaign is going better in the U.S. than elsewhere with comparable numbers of Democrats and Republicans sharing this view, although more older than young Americans agreed.

The findings come amid growing concern that the majority of lower- and middle-income countries will not be able to sufficiently vaccinate enough of their populations to contribute to herd immunity, especially as variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. Consequently, there is debate over the role the U.S. should play in ensuring greater access to Covid-19 vaccines across the globe.

Over the past year, the U.S. and other wealthy nations reached deals with vaccine makers for more than half of the nearly 9 billion doses locked up in purchase agreements, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. Some middle-income countries have vaccine development programs, but low-income nations lack manufacturing and clinical testing capacity, so they cannot participate in the deal-making.

HarrisPoll_Global Vaccine
Source: The Harris Poll The Harris Poll

To compensate, the World Health Organization established the COVAX program to arrange for access to 92 low- and middle-income countries, but for now, this would only cover about 20% of their populations. Meanwhile, COVAX remains underfunded. The program’s proposed budget for 2020 and 2021 is $11.7 billion, but total contributions have so far only reached $8.6 billion, leaving a funding gap of $3.1 billion.

The Biden administration recently agreed to provide up to $4 billion to COVAX, but is being urged to do more to ensure global access. Last week, for instance, dozens of advocacy groups proposed the U.S. invest in a global vaccine manufacturing program — complete with regional hubs — and ensure that the technology is openly shared.

In a white paper released last week, the Duke team wrote the U.S. should pursue “vaccine diplomacy” by using additional funding mechanisms and supporting more licensing deals between vaccine makers and companies based in other countries. They also suggested making loans of currently available doses. (We should note the lead author was Mark McClellan, a Duke health policy professor and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who also serves as a board member at Johnson & Johnson, which makes a Covid-19 vaccine).

Also last week, more than 170 former heads of state, government officials, and Nobel laureates urged the White House to adopt a proposal before the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive provisions in a trade agreement and make it easier for countries that permit compulsory licensing to allow a manufacturer to export vaccines.

  • I compare this to when in a plane the oxygen masks come down: adults put on their oxygen masks first, to help their children next. Vaccination schemes IMO are quite similar: if the capable cannot remain capable, then everyone ends up sacrificed. The group of countries that knows how to invent vaccines needs to take care of themselves first, in order to be able to take care of others. It may not sound fair, but it is the most logical and effective way to achieve the goal of eventually getting everyone vaccinated.
    A lot of young GenZ-s and Milennials still have to learn this concept but more life-experience will get them there. And the Republicans who want to stockpile vaccines are just selfish – and hypocritical on top of that if they chose not to get vaccinated (should send them to join the under-vaccinated nations).

  • Please let others save themselves and hopefully open their country borders to allow those of us to leave, tired of dealing with ignorant and political driven people who will bring this once great country to it’s demise.

  • Millions of vaccines already donated to Africa have already been wasted and spoiled due to fraud and negligent handling at the local level.
    Almost nowhere in Africa is there the infrastructure necessary to handle the super-cold temperatures necessary to keep these vaccines viable until they are distributed and also is there no ability to make sure that these vaccines get to the average African rather than the friends and family of African dictators and war lords.
    Finally, who want to be the one to tell any at-risk American that they can’t have their vaccine now because some bleeding heard donated THEIR vaccine to someone in the third world?
    Finally, no third-world country who is a participant in China’s “belt & road” initiative should receive any vaccine from anywhere other than China.
    Who here “donated” their own vaccine?
    Nobody did!

  • The lack of humanity that has arisen during this pandemic is appalling. The point is being missed with which side feels what. The fact is this should have been addressed globally, prioritizing hc workers around the world and risk populations. Vaccines don’t “belong” to one country. This virus travels the globe, so do the variants. Not doing what is necessary to get ahead of the mutations and protect the global population will only come back to haunt the selfish nations who said “me first”

  • Your well-written article refers to the results of a Harris Poll. Although their analysis may be correct, the methodology mentioned on their first page is both incorrect and impossible.

    A t-test may be used to compare two groups when the measured (numerical) data in each are samples from bell-shaped (normally distributed) populations. A t-test can never be used to compare differences among multiple groups.

    The correct methods to compare differences in two groups where the data are categorical responses (“agree” versus “disagree”) are either the Z-test or the chi-square test for differences in proportions. When comparing differences in categorical responses over multiple groups the chi-square test for differences in proportions should be used, followed by multiple-comparison procedures to determine which of the several groups stand out as statistically significant.

  • The polling results would be much more valid if it stated whether immediate donations would slow down US vaccinations and asked respondents if they believed the vaccines were safe and effective. This would sort out those who mistakenly believe we now have more doses than we need to vaccinate everyone in the US and those who think the vaccine should either not be donated at all or that it might as well be because they mistakenly believe it is unsafe or ineffective. I find many young respondents and Republicans vote their ideals when they lack a factual basis.

  • Americans have to have first priority but if a percentage of americans don’t want to be vaccinated, how will that effect our percentage tallies of total Amercans vaccinated. Should these Americans sign off on the vaccine so our percentages can be accurate? I have had my two vaccines! I think an accurate count would allow America to help other countries asap.

  • The heck with the GOP

    They won’t wear masks and whine about taking actions to prevent infection

    They don’t want to get vaccinated themselves

    And yet they want us to sit on unused doses and not share with countries and people who desperately need doses

    They truly are both Stupid and Selfish — the dreadful Sx2 virus. Give them 3 months to get vaxxed or the doses are gone and if they get sick, leave them on the roadside$

  • have China fill the funding gap of 3.1 Billion ; they are the second wealthiest country in the world and have the second largest economy in the world too ; the WHO should call them for it

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