WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, today released the following comments upon introducing a new resolution, S.Res. 653, expressing the sense of the Senate that withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO) undermines our national priorities and endangers America’s public health.
“While the WHO is not perfect, its technical capacities and relationship with nearly every country in the world make it the best organization to manage the response to a global pandemic like COVID-19. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently heard from a panel of public health experts who all spoke with one voice – leaving the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic will not only compromise the international response to COVID-19, it will put U.S. lives at risk. This is why President Trump’s decision to formally begin withdrawing the United States from the WHO is irrational, reckless – and simply the wrong thing to do.
“This resolution recognizes that, since it was founded in 1948 with help from the United States, the WHO has relied on U.S. support to lead the world in disease detection and eradication and health system strengthening. It also highlights the significant benefit the U.S. gains by participating in the WHO, including the ability to improve public health in regions of the world that would be impossible to reach on our own.
“This resolution outlines the lifesaving work of the WHO to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This work includes convening an unprecedented global, clinical trial, the Solidarity Trial, to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. It includes coordinating global supply chains of personal protective equipment and other health commodities for more than 135 countries. And it includes pre-positioning manufacturing capacity and distribution channels to ensure that all countries have access to future therapies and vaccines faster and at a fair price. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging U.S. participation in global efforts on therapeutics and vaccine development and delivery to address COVID-19 – leaving the WHO will make it drastically more difficult to accomplish those goals.
“The WHO has its flaws, but the United States is best positioned to effect positive changes by maintaining our seat at the table. Historically, we have been able to encourage the WHO to make important reforms, like improvements to its health emergencies program that were undertaken following the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. By withdrawing from the WHO, we are forfeiting our voice in these conversations and empowering countries that do not have our best interests in mind. The international community, and especially the American people, will suffer as a result.
“If we are to be successful in the fight against COVID-19 and whatever other health challenges lay ahead, the U.S. cannot isolate itself from the rest of the world. An isolationist stance will only lead to domestic and global failure. With the pandemic raging in our own backyard, it is of paramount importance for the United States to continue to collaborate with countries around the world to end this global health emergency – and to prevent future ones from starting.”