For the first time ever, vaccines are the United States’ fifth most valuable export, trailing only aircraft, gasoline, natural gas and oil.
Three months after President Biden announced U.S. efforts to rapidly expand Covid-19 vaccine exports to the world, the value of those exports more than tripled in September when compared to May of this year, just prior to the White House pledge. That’s according to the latest data from U.S. Census.
Vaccines, which are grouped in a broader category that includes immunological products, plasma, white blood cells and other blood “fractions,” rarely made up more than 10% of the total value of the category, prior to June.
In September, human vaccines accounted for better than 55% of the total, topping 40% for only the first time in June before falling just below that in July and August.
It is reasonable to expect that surge to continue, based on White House statements. But, experts warn — and the administration concurs — far, far more is needed to bring the global pandemic under control.
“When the world needs 10 billion doses to get to where we need to go,” Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, was quoted as saying, “it puts [the current U.S. effort] in context. We’re a hundred times off where we need to be.”
The five busiest months for U.S. vaccine exports are the last five months of currently available data.
What also changed in September was the destination of those exports.
In 2020, Brazil accounted for 1.7% of all the U.S. exports in the larger category, Colombia 0.42% and Peru 0.083%. In September, Brazil advanced to 12% of the total, trailing only distribution hub Belgium. Colombia jumped to 2.2%, Peru to 1.1%.
Brazil has more Covid-19 deaths than any other nation in the world outside the United States.
One of the criticisms of the worldwide effort has been that as much as 80% of all vaccines initially went to more advanced economies over developing ones.
Because of the increase in exports to South American nations in recent months and particularly in September, Miami International Airport led the nation in September, with 16% of the total. Year-to-date, Chicago O’Hare International and JHK International still account for 30% of the total, down slightly from 2020, when the two accounted for about one-third.