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Biden announces more vaccine supply on the way
President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will have enough supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the summer to inoculate 300 million Americans. (Feb. 11)
WASHINGTON – On Friday, President Joe Biden will announce a $4 billion U.S. commitment to the global vaccine alliance known as COVAX, aimed at helping poor countries inoculate their populations, according to a senior administration official.
Biden will outline the pledge during Friday’s virtual meeting with G7 members. The White House plans to release $2 billion immediately and use the second $2 billion as leverage to get other wealthy nations to contribute to the global vaccination effort, according to the administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The money will come from funds already appropriated by Congress for international vaccination efforts and will not impact the Biden administration’s campaign to inoculate Americans, the official said. The Biden administration said this week it’s on track to inoculate every American adult by July.
The Trump administration had refused to participate in COVAX.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday the Biden administration was committed to working through COVAX to ensure there is equitable distribution of vaccines and funding globally. COVAX plans to initially deliver more than 330 million vaccine doses in the first half of 2021, covering an average of 3.3% of the total populations of the 145 participating countries.
‘Wildly uneven and unfair’
In December, COVAX officials said they had a shortfall of more than $4 billion in pledges that if not filled, would result in a “a protracted pandemic, with severe economic consequences” for rich and poor countries alike.
The White House said it would release its second installment of $2 billion when other countries’ financial pledges are fulfilled and initial doses are delivered to the 92 low- and middle-income countries targeted by the COVAX initiative.
Scientists and advocates fear that if wealthy nations hoard vaccines, the novel coronavirus will continue to mutate and could return to threaten the U.S. and others. More contagious variants are already circulating in the U.S. and across the globe.
COVID-19: Current vaccines may be less effective on some variants
COVID-19 variants are surging in America and scientists are learning the vaccine may not work as well against them.
“If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, or parts of it, it will mutate again and again,” said United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres. “New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics.”
So far, just 10 countries have administered 75% of all COVID-19 vaccines, according to Guterres.
“Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose,” Guterres said during a UN meeting Wednesday. “Progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair.”
U.S. called on to share excess doses
Some global health advocacy groups are pressuring the Biden administration to commit to donating extra vaccine doses that it purchased after the U.S. population has been vaccinated. An analysis released Thursday by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty and global health nonprofit, found that the U.S. has purchased at least 453 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses, which it said should be used to vaccinate people in the world’s poorest countries.
The Biden administration official said Thursday the White House is developing a framework to donate surplus doses.
“While we’re not able to share vaccine doses at this time,” the White House is working on a timeline spelling out when the U.S. will have sufficient domestic supply to donate extra vaccines, the official said.
COVAX was launched last spring with Gavi, an existing global vaccine alliance, and the World Health Organization. Its goal is to equitably distribute 2 billion vaccine doses before 2022 to participating countries and to distribute enough doses to allow countries to vaccinate 20% of their populations – largely health care workers and the elderly.
The Trump administration cut ties with WHO last May, describing the organization as “China-centric” in its response to the pandemic. The U.S. was officially set to leave WHO in July 2021, but Biden announced the U.S. would remain in the organization after he took office.
Contributing: Megan Janetsky