Donald Trump is the king of toothless remarks.
Earlier this year, the president attempted to “defend free speech” on social media by removing protections for tech companies with an executive order — only for experts to call it a “long-shot legal bid.” Just this week, the House passed a veto-proof spending bill that did not repeal the protections.
This past week saw another potentially-toothless executive order from Trump. The order vowed “to ensure that American citizens have first priority to receive American vaccines,” along with a contradictory statement that the US will “work with the world” to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
“We must ensure that Americans have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States or procured by the U.S. government," the order said. “After ensuring the ability to meet the vaccination needs of the American people, it is in the interest of the United States to facilitate international access to U.S. government COVID-19 vaccines."
It is unclear how the president plans on enforcing such a plan; it is likely toothless. But the order is still a dangerous and insulting attempt at interfering with the health and livelihood of American allies, including its closest partner — Canada.
Canada, which recently approved the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine, has had to rely entirely on foreign-made vaccines, as plans to develop a vaccine domestically fell through.
Indeed, because of this, prime minister Justin Trudeau said in November that Canadians will have to wait longer for a vaccine because “the very first vaccines that roll off an assembly line in a given country are likely to be given to citizens of that particular country.”
However, there is a stark difference between waiting for a country to fulfill its commitment to the most vulnerable and stepping in the way of the vaccine doses that Canada has already ordered.
In fact, Canada has been one of the most prepared countries in the world to receive the vaccine. While distributing the vaccine will be a challenge across the second-largest country in the world with a population one-tenth the size of the US, Canada has secured enough doses to inoculate 154 million people — five times its population.
Instead of issuing dangerous, insulting, toothless claims against its closest allies, Trump should have secured the required doses to serve Americans, as Canada has done.
There is something to be said for protecting citizens at home first before helping those abroad. Trudeau recognized this himself in his statement last month.
If your family is starving and the neighbors are starving, you feed yourself before you feed your neighbors. But the way to solve this is to buy more food at the grocery store — not beating up your neighbors when they leave the grocery store with their own food.
Similarly, the United States should have reserved more doses of the vaccine in the first place, instead of claiming preferential treatment after the fact.
It is admirable that in his executive order, Trump committed the US to facilitating international access to COVID-19 vaccines. However, whatever goodwill is generated by that commitment is erased by the toothless statement of domestic priority that could have been solved long ago with better planning.
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