As U.S. members of Congress have been reluctantly working in Washington this week to attend to urgent business – instead of taking the month off, as they normally would do this time year – many are reportedly also taking the opportunity to continue to press the Biden administration to provide Covid-19 vaccines to American expats who happen to live in certain far-flung parts of the world, where such vaccines are almost non-existent.
So says the Washington, DC-based American Citizens Abroad advocacy organization, which says it is also continuing its campaign to convince elected officials as well as the State Department to change the current U.S. policy of not distributing Covid-19 vaccines to Americans overseas. The ACA is also continuing to urge expats to join in its "pro-vaccines for expats" write-in campaign, first launched back in June.
As reported, many American expats in such countries as Thailand in particular have been reaching out to U.S. media organizations in desperation to call attention to the fact that the U.S. has failed to even attempt to provide them with Covid vaccines, even though it has not only provided them to all Homeland Americans who are willing to be vaccinated, but has even talked about paying "anti-vaxxers" to be jabbed.
The U.S. has also vaccinated Americans who live abroad but who work for U.S. embassies and consulates, and their families, while not vaccinating those Americans not employed by the U.S. government, expats in these jurisdictions say.
Such expats have pointed to the fact that the U.S. is the only country in the world, apart from Eritrea, to require its expats to file tax returns to their home tax authority, and potentially pay taxes – which, they argue, ought to entitle them to get the same free vaccines as their Stateside counterparts. (Early on in the vaccines-for-expats campaign, some campaigners took to expressing their frustration on social media by using the #TaxedButNotVaxxed hashtag (see tweet, left).
What's more, these expats have noted, a couple of countries that don't tax their expats have been providing their own expats in Thailand with vaccines anyway, including France and China.
In a press release on Monday, the ACA said the effort to get Covid-19 vaccines to Americans overseas who urgently need them "is advancing," and referred to progress that it said was being made by a legislative proposal that would see "supplemental doses of vaccines [sent] to [U.S.] embassies and consulates" around the world, "to reach unvaccinated Americans abroad."
This plan, in the form of an amendment introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), made it through the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of legislation that Sen. Murphy helped to author (the "International Pandemic Preparedness and Covid-19 Response Act" (S. 2297), according to the ACA.
In its latest email notice to its members, as well as on its website, ACA is urging Americans who live outside of the U.S. to "write your representatives in Congress, and the committee representatives responsible for distribution of the SARS-CoV-2e vaccine, asking that the U.S. government make vaccinations available to Americans living and working overseas."
It continued: "The Biden administration has stated that all Americans should get vaccinated. The administration and Congress have sent U.S. surplus vaccinations to foreign governments to help combat the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
"This is a laudable effort, however, Americans overseas should be included in 'all Americans,' and the U.S. government can and should provide a plan for vaccinating Americans living and working overseas."
The ACA's information about how to go about writing to one's Congressional representatives about the vaccine issue, and what to say, may be found by clicking here.
As reported, in late July the ACA revealed that the U.S. State Department had reiterated earlier statements to the effect that the U.S. "currently does not have plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to Americans overseas."
In June, a bipartisan group of 26 U.S. senators wrote a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which they urged him to make Covid-19 vaccines available to American expats at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, even as these embassies'websites continued to state that the U.S. government "does not plan to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to private U.S. citizens overseas."
The senators' letter, dated June 24, called on Blinken to ensure that especially those American expatriates who are ineligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the countries where they live – being non-citizens and also, in some cases, living in countries where there are few vaccines to be had – be given vaccines by the U.S. government.
In May, as reported, two former U.S. ambassadors – Michael George DeSombre, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand (2020- Jan. 2021), and Scott Brown, Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, (2017 - 2020) – shared their view, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, that the time had come for Americans abroad "to be given their shots" too.
Also in May, the Democrats Abroad and Republicans Overseas in Thailand joined forces, along with other expat organizations there, to urge the U.S. to vaccinate Americans there, noting that Thailand had said it would prioritize its own citizens ahead of foreigners, no matter the foreigners' ages or risk factors.
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