Americans will celebrate independence from Covid-19 on July 4. We got a sneak peek when
won the PGA Championship and was surrounded by adoring fans enjoying their post-Covid freedoms.
But U.S. citizens residing overseas are not able to share in this optimism. The U.S. government has no plan to provide vaccinations to Americans who don’t reside in the U.S. It was the right thing for the U.S. government to prioritize vaccinating all people in America, but now that vaccine supply exceeds demand at home, it is time for Americans abroad to be given their shots.
The U.S. government has rarely offered vaccinations to Americans residing overseas. But this is the first time at least since the eradication of smallpox that the U.S. government has offered free vaccines to everyone in America, whether citizens, residents or visitors. Americans living overseas are U.S. taxpayers and should have the same access to free vaccines funded by their tax dollars.
There are no significant hurdles for the U.S. government to ship Covid vaccines around the world and administer them to Americans living abroad. The State Department confirmed on April 20 that it has sent to each U.S. embassy sufficient vaccines to administer to all American employees. Each embassy also maintains a list of Americans who have registered their contact details, and unregistered Americans could easily be reached through the American communities in each country. All that would be required to administer vaccines in an orderly manner to Americans overseas would be to create an online sign-up system.
While the virus has recently receded in the U.S. and Europe, it has spiked in countries in the Indo-Pacific. Many countries in that region have been slow in delivering vaccines to their populations. In Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, less than 6% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The rates in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are even lower. Some governments are prioritizing their citizens over foreign residents, and in some countries the only available vaccines are ones that haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as
For U.S. citizens, returning home to get vaccinated is difficult. Traveling to America, taking two shots three or four weeks apart, then spending two to three weeks in quarantine upon return to Asia could cause the whole process to take up to seven weeks and thousands of dollars in flights and accommodation. That’s not a realistic option if you have a full-time job, especially if you have children.
As ambassadors, our priority was to secure the health and safety of all Americans. It is time for the U.S. to offer Covid-19 vaccines to our fellow citizens living overseas.
Mr. DeSombre served as U.S. ambassador to Thailand, 2020-21. Mr. Brown served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, 2010-13, and ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, 2017-20.
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