Donald Trump has been warned that an “America first” approach to finding a coronavirus vaccine is a “huge mistake” that will cripple the world’s ability to recover from the pandemic.
The US president, who initially dismissed the seriousness of COVID-19, has faced criticism for his response to the disease, notably around his apparent lack of interest in helping co-ordinate a global strategy.
While Barack Obama’s White House took a leading role in tackling the Ebola epidemic back in 2009, the Trump administration has been absent from international efforts to co-operate.
Now a former senior director for global health security on the US National Security Council (NSC) has accused the administration of a “confusing” strategy that risks exacerbating the worldwide impact of coronavirus.
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Speaking on the Sky News Daily podcast, Beth Cameron – who led the NSC’s strategy regarding the response to potential pandemics between 2014 and 2017 – said Mr Trump needed to change course.
“One of the biggest challenges the US government has had is providing regular, clear and consistent messaging to states and the world about the response and what should happen, and that clarity is really missing,” she said.
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“Most frustrating to me is that the US isn’t helping to be the leader in the global response.
“We are one of a number of countries that can and should lead during a crisis like this because we have a lot of expertise and the ability to work collaboratively with countries around the world.
“During the Ebola epidemic we really led on that, working with partners like the UK, France, Germany and others, but right now it seems we have really ceded some of that leadership role and are not really at the table.”
There was no US representative at a virtual meeting of world leaders last week, which aims to raise funds to find a vaccine and clear the way for mass production and distribution.
Suspicions have been growing that if a vaccine for coronavirus was developed within the US, the president may be unwilling to immediately share it with the rest of the world.
Ms Cameron, whose office was dissolved by the Trump administration a year after she left, said such an attitude to finding any vaccine would be a “huge mistake”.
“It would be predicated on the idea that if we were to vaccinate everyone in the US, that somehow there would be no impact on the US if the rest of the world didn’t have quick access to a vaccine,” she said.
“Scientific co-operation is a global endeavour. We’re going to have to vaccinate seven billion people and that will be a huge effort that the US will have to lead in order to be successful.”
Ms Cameron also echoed warnings from America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci that rushing to reopen the economy could have grave consequences for the country.
Some states are already starting to ease lockdown measures, despite the US leading the world on confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths with more than 1.3 million and 82,000 respectively.
Mr Trump has repeatedly advocated for reopening the US economy in recent weeks, including claiming that “the cure cannot be worse than the disease”.