updated 2:28 PM CEST, May 24, 2023

House of Reps' Maloney and Salazar head up latest effort to bring Covid vaccines to expats

Image from a new YouTube video calling for expats abroad to be vaccinated Image from a new YouTube video calling for expats abroad to be vaccinated

House of Representatives members Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who represents a New York City district, and Maria Salazar, a Republican who represents a district in Miami, are sending what they're calling "a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of State, urging it to expand efforts to vaccinate the nine million Americans living abroad," and urging others to join them. 

Thus far, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D - Maryland), Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D - Pennsylvania) and Rep. Dina Titus (D - Nevada) have signed the letter, to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a statement issued on Friday by the Washington, DC -based American Citizens Abroad (ACA), an advocacy organization. 

In a "request for co-signers" letter, the two Congresswomen are seeking others to join them in their "support [for] this effort!"

They then provide the email address of someone at the House of Representatives who is overseeing the putting together of the letter. 

As reported, some 26 members of the U.S. Senate signed a similar letter, also addressed to Secretary of State Blinken, back in June, urging him to make Covid-19 vaccines available to American expats at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas.

That letter, dated June 24 and available to read and download here, called on Blinken to ensure that especially those American expatriates who were 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 were few vaccines to be had – be given vaccines by the U.S. government. The ACA also publicized that effort.

The Rep. Maloney and Salazar letter comes after months of calls by expat groups and individuals, in addition to lawmakers of the U.S. government, to provide vaccines to those American citizens who live outside of the U.S., on the basis that it is making such vaccines easily (and freely) available to Homeland Americans – and even discussing financial incentives to encourage the country's "anti-vaxx" community to agree to be given the shots. 

On May 27, for example, 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; last month, Thailand-based expats were among a group of U.S. citizens resident abroad who, with the help of the Democrats Abroad, joined forces to produce a YouTube video (from which the above image is taken), explaining why the U.S. should provide those  American expats who still needed them with vaccines. 

Rep. Salazar's possible role with Rep.
Maloney's Americans Abroad Caucus

Rep. Salazar's seemingly prominent role, alongside Maloney, in their letter to Blinken suggests that the Republican lawmaker from Florida could indeed be about to be announced as Maloney's co-chair of the Americans Abroad Caucus, which Rep. Maloney hinted at during an online Town Hall with expats last month.

Asked about this today, a spokesperson for Rep. Maloney's office said they could "not speak for Rep. Salazar or her office," while a spokesperson for Rep. Salazar's office said they had been very busy lately, and that they would look into the matter.

What Rep. Maloney
and Salazar's letter says

Reps. Maloney and Salazar's letter, for which they are seeking co-signers, begins by thanking Secretary Blinken for his "ongoing efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic", and urges him to "expand [these] efforts to vaccinate the nine million Americans living abroad."

It continues: "We have made significant progress in the fight against Covid-19 here at home.

"However, we remain concerned that Americans living abroad still face obstacles in accessing these life-saving vaccines.

"The Administration has made great strides to ensure that any eligible American who wants to receive a vaccine is able to receive one. More than 75% of Americans aged 12 years and older have received at least their first shot.

"The United States is also leading efforts to expand vaccine access around the world, committing to sharing over 580 million doses with other countries to support global health efforts.

"[But] the Delta variant still poses a significant health risk, both in the United States and abroad, and Americans living abroad have not been able to easily access vaccines."

The letter ends by noting – as expats invariably seem to do in their calls to be vaccinated, often using the hashtag #TaxedButNotVaxxed to make their point  –  "though these [expatriate] Americans pay taxes and maintain citizenship, they do not currently receive the same free access to vaccinations that all other Americans stateside have been able to access for months.

"We believe it is important for Americans abroad to have timely access to vaccines, and believe the United States government can play an instrumental role in ensuring these U.S. citizens are vaccinated, including through the infrastructure of our U.S. Embassies and Consulates."

Reps. Maloney and Salazar then request that Blinken's office provide details of any plans by the government that are currently underway "to implement the direct distribution of vaccines to American citizens living abroad, or any efforts to ensure Americans living abroad can access vaccines from their local governments."

America, they finally conclude, "will never be fully vaccinated if we do not also provide a way for those living abroad to access the vaccines meant for all Americans."