Trump administration officials reportedly planned to give wealthy allies such as Israel and Taiwan access to Covid-19 vaccines before poorer countries, according to current and former officials who spoke to Politico.
According to the report, officials in Trump White House and National Security Council — not public health experts — played a significant role in planning for distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in late 2020.
The Trump administration document was attached as a secret annex to a document describing the administration’s plans for combating the Covid-19 pandemic internationally. It reportedly prioritised which countries would receive the vital inoculations based on officials’ political preferences.
Officials who described the list to Politico said it split countries into several categories, with “strategic allies” such as Israel, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea and other European countries getting first dibs at the jabs.
Former Department of Health and Human Services deputy chief of staff for policy Paul Mango — who was reportedly not involved with drafting the document — said officials “thought the categories made sense at the time”.
“The underserved countries were third on the list,” he added.
The secret document — which was never put into effect because the Trump administration ended in January 2021 — also reportedly included “assessment of every country’s ability to absorb and distribute doses and to what degree they were experiencing outbreaks,” a criterion which applied to the aforementioned allies because they would have had the infrastructure needed to distribute the shots, but also the financial wherewithal to pay for them without US help.
Asked by Politico whether officials were concerned about the consequences of prioritising wealthy allies over poorer countries that may have had greater need, a former Trump administration official who helped draft the document replied: “Not really”.
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