White House Pledges $4 Billion to Global Vaccination Effort

Image taken from video shows people working inside the UNICEF warehouse, the world’s largest humanitarian aid warehouse, in Copenhagen, Denmark , Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo)

(CN) — The United States will contribute $4 billion to get Covid-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries that were squeezed out of the competitive worldwide process to secure doses.

President Joe Biden will formally announce the pledge on Friday at a Group of Seven meeting, the White House announced Thursday. 

The pledge will be made to the Covax initiative, a joint effort that aims to provide vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries and ensure the rebuilding of their economies. The effort is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“President Biden’s focus is on global response to the Covid pandemic, including coordination on vaccine production, distribution and supplies, as well as continued efforts to mobilize and cooperate against the threat of emerging infectious diseases,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday during a press briefing.

The Biden administration’s humanitarian move is in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his public fallout with the WHO. Trump withdrew U.S. financial support from WHO in July 2020, but the Biden administration has since re-committed to the partnership.

The $4 billion pledge from the U.S. will be made over the next two years to bring equity to the worldwide distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The U.S. will contribute $2 billion to the Covax initiative from funds earmarked by Congress for foreign aid in December 2020. 

An additional $2 billion will be sent through 2022, with the first $500 million delivered on the condition that other countries make their own donations and the first round of vaccines are delivered to the 92 Covax nations.

The White House aims to encourage other countries to commit their own contributions to help vaccinate vulnerable populations and conduct outreach to those without adequate access to health care. 

The trickle of vaccines distributed across the U.S. has yielded a molasses-like rollout on the mass inoculation effort. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 57 million vaccines have been administered. But the situation is dire in other parts of the world.

On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said just 10 countries have so far administered 75% of all Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.

“Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose. Those affected by conflict and insecurity are at particular risk of being left behind,” Guterres said in a statement.

Biden’s pledge at the G7 summit on Friday will be made to help Gavi “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus through vaccine procurement and delivery for the world’s most vulnerable.” 

Biden’s first G7 meeting on Friday will include a virtual summit with world leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

It’s unclear when more vaccines will be distributed to other parts of the globe, but it’s clear those will not be coming from the U.S. anytime soon. Surplus vaccine supplies will be donated to other countries in need, but not until “there is sufficient supply in the United States” according to a Jan. 21 memorandum from the Biden administration.

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