The worsening COVID crisis in Brazil has made it imperative that the US launch an aggressive plan to defeat COVID in the Americas. It is reasonable to assume that the far more deadly and infectious Brazilian variant is going to start spreading throughout the region, and the economic and societal damage it may cause is simply not in the interest of the United States however you look at it.
The US should begin mobilizing to help the nations of the Americas, totaling about 630 million people, for all hands on deck assault against the virus (vaccine, testing/tracing, therapeutics, masking etc). We will need to start committing resources from the Defense Department, State, USAID and other parts of the government to provide direct on the ground support; and the US should consider purchasing enough vaccine to ensure that each nation has enough to vaccinate their entire population in the coming months. We have already purchased hundreds of millions of doses beyond what is needed here in the US — that vaccine should be committed to the Americas first, and not to other regions of the world.
The Biden Administration has already starting planning for such an effort in Asia, working through “the Quad” — the US, Japan, India and Australia. Here, closer to home, we may have to launch something that might be considered an extension of our current domestic mobilization that has created large vaccination centers and other backstops to the state and local health authorities. Today the US announced it was making some of its stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine, not yet approved here in the US, available to Mexico and Canada. It is a great first step, but given the gravity of what’s happening in Brazil right now, much more will have to be done.
Doing everything we can to prevent the more virulent Brazilian variant from ravaging the Americas and potentially coming here prior to the US achieving herd immunity is something clearly and pragmatically in the national interest of the United States. But on a deeper level, this kind of American-led regional effort would be hugely beneficial to the understanding in the Americas of what the United States is and can be after a deeply anti-Hispanic America First Presidency. It will also help lay the political predicate for some kind of Marshall Plan for Central America, something which will be needed as a way of preventing the kind of flows to our border we’ve seen episodically since the great Mexican wave of migration slowed more than a decade ago.
As I wrote in an essay in the Mexican-based journal Letras Libres, COVID presents America and the Biden Administration with an extraordinary opportunity to remind the world of the greatness of America while reinvigorating the great liberal project Roosevelt and Truman launched after World War II. If America can successfully lead a global effort to defeat COVID and “build back better” it could become a defining moment for contemporary American liberalism, helping teach an entire new global generation of what modern democracies can accomplish when working together with the people of the world.
The Biden Administration’s rejoining of the WHO and its support of the global vaccine effort COVAX was an important first step in towards standing up such a American-led global strategy to defeat COVID; the establishing of the Quad to do help Asia defeat COVID was a terrific second step; the vaccines to Mexico and Canada a smart third step; standing up a plan for the Americas should be the fourth.