World Leaders Launch $8 Billion Collaboration to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine. Guess Who Isn’t Participating.

American exceptionalism strikes again.

Alexei Nikolsky/ZUMA

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On Friday, the World Health Organization announced that leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, have agreed to an unprecedented $8 billion initiative to fight the coronavirus pandemic, an effort that will include a race to develop a vaccine and ensure equal access to it.

“The world needs these tools and it needs them fast,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference Friday. “In the past, they have not been available to all. That cannot be allowed to happen again.”

If you’re thinking that such a collaborative sentiment would be anathema to President Donald Trump—who last month attempted to buy a German company in order to gain exclusive rights to a vaccine—you’ve guessed right. “There will be no US official participation,” a US spokesman told Reuters when asked about the WHO initiative.

This, of course, tracks with every other go-it-alone, “Make America Great” decision Trump has built his presidency on, as well as his recent accusation that WHO had “severely” mismanaged its handling of the pandemic, a claim widely viewed as an attempt to divert attention from his ongoing failures in dealing with the virus. Yet amid the current pandemic—a crisis the United States leads with the highest death toll in the world—Trump’s latest refusal to participate in a global effort, what could be a vital opportunity to develop a sorely needed vaccine, is still pretty stunning. Perhaps the president is banking on his new disinfectant injections theory.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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