- Lawmakers want to make COVID-19 vaccines available to Americans living abroad.
- Nearly 9 million US citizens live outside the United States.
- But this week a US diplomat said the State Department is “unable to provide vaccines.”
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The United States is nearing President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults against COVID-19 by July 4. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the administration to help make vaccines available to the as many as 9 million Americans living abroad.
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, two dozen US senators call for making COVID-19 vaccines available at embassies and consulates overseas.
“While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens,” the senators wrote. “Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the US to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive.”
Accordingly, the senators wrote, “millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.”
The senators’ appeal was led by Sens. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas. It comes after two former US ambassadors, Michael George DeSombre and Scott Brown – the latter also a former Republican US senator – argued in The Wall Street Journal it would be relatively easy to inoculate US expats.
These embassies have already received vaccines for those who work there. But they also maintain “a list of Americans who have registered their contact details, and unregistered Americans could easily be reached through the American communities in each country,” the former ambassadors wrote. “All that would be required to administer vaccines in an orderly manner to Americans overseas would be to create an online sign-up system.”
Organizations representing US citizens abroad have also appealed to the State Department to provide vaccines. But, as Reuters reported Wednesday, a request to make Thailand a pilot project for such a campaign has thus far been rejected.
In a message posted to the US Embassy in Thailand’s website, Americans in the country were told the State Department “is unable to provide vaccines to the millions of Americans who reside outside of the United States.” Instead, US diplomat Michael G. Hearh said the embassy would work with the local government to ensure all are vaccinated “without regard to nationality.”
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