Biden to announce initial $2 billion in funding for global vaccination efforts under COVAX initiative. However, COVAX needs more than $30 billion

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will announce on Friday an initial $2 billion in funding for GAVI, the vaccine Alliance, to be used by the COVAX Facility, senior administration officials said at a briefing in Washington DC on Thursday.

Biden will make the announcement during a Group of Seven meeting of leaders of the world’s largest economies.

In all, the White House will be pledging about $4 billion to a multilateral effort to get the coronavirus under control and vaccinate most people in the world.

The officials said the United States will release an additional $2 billion over two years once other donors have made good on their pledges. The money was appropriated by a bipartisan congressional vote last year.

They said the U.S. will use the G-7 summit on Friday to rally other countries to do more.

Global vaccination efforts are led by the World Health Organization, GAVI and the center for Preparedness Innovations.

Although the $2 billion pledged by the United States is a welcome development, the WHO said late last year that it had a funding gap of about $35 billion.

Last September, the World Health Organization (WHO) said $35 billion was needed to end the acute phase of COVID-19 pandemic in the world through the ACT-Accelerator initiative.

The ACT-Accelerator’s goal is to develop new tools, produce and deliver 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million diagnostic tests over the next year. It is the only global initiative offering a solution to speed up the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at his regular press conference in Geneva on September 25, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said although $35 billion is a lot of money, it is what is spent on cigarettes every two weeks.

“US$35 billion is a lot of money. But in the context of arresting a global pandemic and supporting the global economic recovery, it’s a bargain.

“To put it in perspective, US$35 billion is less than 1% of what G20 governments have already committed to domestic economic stimulus packages. Or to put it another way, it’s roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every 2 weeks,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He said of the US$35 billion, US$15 billion is needed immediately to fund research and development, scale up manufacturing, secure procurement and strengthen delivery systems.

Launched on April 24, 2020, the ACT-Accelerator combines public and private sector expertise and institutions from around the world to accelerate the development, regulatory approval, scale-up, delivery and equitable allocation of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

The WHO argues that with the largest portfolio of COVID-19 tools in the world, investing in the ACT-Accelerator increases the probability of being able to access the “winning candidate” and hedges the risk that countries that have already entered individual bilateral agreements end up with products that are not viable.

White House statement:

The White House released a statement announcing President Biden’s pledge.

It wrote: “As the virus continues to spread throughout the world, and with new variants emerging, the facts are clear that it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Tomorrow at the G7, the President will announce that he is taking concrete steps to improve the health and the safety of Americans by protecting vulnerable populations worldwide. He will also call on G7 partners to prioritize a sustainable health security financing mechanism aimed at catalyzing countries to build the needed capacity to end this pandemic and prevent the next one. 

“COVID has shown us that no nation can act alone in the face of a pandemic. Today, President Biden is taking action to support the world’s most vulnerable and protect Americans from COVID-19.

“Using money appropriated by a bipartisan Congressional vote in December 2020, the United States will provide an initial $2 billion contribution to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, the innovative financing instrument of the COVAX Facility, which supports access to safe and effective vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income economies.

“The United States will also take a leadership role in galvanizing further global contributions to COVAX by releasing an additional $2 billion through 2021 and 2022, of which the first $500 million will be made available when existing donor pledges are fulfilled and initial doses are delivered to AMC countries. In close cooperation with Gavi, this additional $2 billion in funding will serve to expand COVAX’s reach.  We also call on our G7 and other partners to work alongside Gavi, to bring in billions more in resources to support global COVID-19 vaccination, and to target urgent vaccine manufacturing, supply, and delivery needs.

“Finally, at the G7 President Biden will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to global health security and advancing the Global Health Security Agenda.  All countries should have the capability to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks.  The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea highlight the need for sustainable health security financing to catalyze country capacity to prevent biological catastrophes.

“Today, the President is announcing that he will:

Protect the most vulnerable, protecting America: The United States’ contribution is designated to help Gavi prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus through vaccine procurement and delivery for the world’s most vulnerable. In partnership with Gavi, the bulk of these funds will be targeted to support direct vaccine procurement, and a portion will also support broader country readiness and vaccine service delivery. 

Encourage the global community to action: Under President Biden, the United States will take a leadership role in galvanizing new donor commitments toward the COVAX Facility. The next $2 billion of support from the US government, which will be additional to today’s initial $2 billion contribution, will be released as we work with other donors to elevate pledge commitments. The goal is clear: vaccinate vulnerable populations, and reach those without other options. This funding from the Administration will enable Gavi to address urgent needs, while also supporting efforts to diversify and increase contributions from other donors in 2021.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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