(CNN)A group of more than 30 Democratic members of the House of Representatives have signed onto a letter to the White House encouraging the Biden administration to do even more to help distribute vaccines across the world.
The letter comes right after President Joe Biden announced a plan to immediately share 25 million Covid-19 vaccines with countries around the world, with a broader goal of sharing up to 80 million vaccine doses by the end of June. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state and the chair of the Progressive Caucus is the leading author of the letter and is joined by several of her fellow progressive members like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Danny Davis and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Ro Khanna of California. According to Jayapal, she and members of the caucus have been pressing the White House to get aggressive in distributing vaccines around the world as the situation became dire in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. Jayapal said she is regular contact with White House chief of staff Ron Klain and she was very glad to see the initial announcement, but said much more needs to be done.”This is urgent, I mean, people need them right now. And so that is a good first step,” Jayapal, whose parents live in India and both got Covid, said in an interview with CNN. “Our letter, however, calls for — and I’ve spoken to the White House about all of these things — but it calls for much more.”In addition to the initial vaccine distribution the lawmakers are pushing the White House to do the following:Read MoreInvest up to $25 billion to jump start the production of 8 billion vaccine doses.Use US diplomatic influence to help facilitate the transfer of technology to help other countries produce vaccines on their own.Support a new cost free International Monetary Fund reserve asset to help low-income countries strengthen their public health budgets.Convene a global vaccine summit with world leaders to help coordinate development and distribution of vaccines.”The United States, thanks to (Biden’s) leadership, and Congress’s actions, has been able to really turn the tide and getting the vaccines out to people across the country,” Jayapal said. “But this thing is not going away. This is not only a moral responsibility, but if we found a way to crush the virus than we can lead on helping the rest of the world to do that.”For Jayapal, the desire to push to get more vaccines around the world is personal. She was born in India and both of her elderly parents still live there. Her parents contracted Covid just as the surge of the virus began to rage in the country (according to Johns Hopkins, cases in India began to sharply rise in early March). Both have since recovered, but Jayapal believes that they were fortunate. Her father was able to get a hospital bed and receive life sustaining oxygen because the country had not yet been overrun by the virus. Had he contracted the disease a few weeks later, she believes he may not have survived.”Honestly they’re some of the lucky ones because they got it at the beginning of the surge,” she said. “And I really don’t think that if it had happened even just a week later, that my dad would have been able to get the oxygen that he needed, or the hospital room that he needed.”Because she witnessed the impact of the virus firsthand, Jayapal is pressing upon the administration her belief that taking these steps now is a necessity. She believes that the White House should push forward with some of these measures before Biden leaves for the G7 summit next week so the US can demonstrate leadership for what she calls an “urgent” need.”It’s been very traumatic for all of us who are Indian Americans across the country who have family members there. I feel like there isn’t a single one of us that doesn’t know somebody that has died or somebody that is very close to us that’s died,” she said. “I have been just pushing privately, publicly every way that I possibly can to, to get the United States to show leadership on this.”