WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce plans to allocate up to $ 4 billion to a global Covid-19 vaccination program to help developing countries. A move officials argue will strengthen US national security interests by helping fight the pandemic around the world.
The United States will initially allocate $ 2 billion in the coming days to a World Health Organization-backed program called COVAX, which will help access vaccines for 92 countries. The remaining $ 2 billion will be provided over the next two years, including an additional $ 500 million as other donor promises are fulfilled and the first doses are made.
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While millions of Americans are still waiting to get access to the vaccine, government officials said raising the funds made specifically by Congress in December to aid foreign pandemics will help Americans by reducing the risk of further mutations that could prolong the pandemic.
“We believe it is important to have a role to play in fighting the pandemic around the world and to really get US leadership to do so,” said a senior government official. “It is vital to increase vaccination globally, while of course here at home we give vaccination priority.”
The move underscores Biden’s different approaches to global affairs after former President Donald Trump withdrew from WHO and signed an ordinance prioritizing vaccines for Americans before helping other countries. However, senior government officials said the US would not consider donating vaccines to lower-income countries until supplies are secured to vaccinate all Americans, which has been requested by some global health organizations.
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Global aid agency UNICEF has stated that countries that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk for serious illnesses should share vaccine doses with other countries so they can do the same. Almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people still have to administer a single dose, the group said on February 10. UNICEF called this a “strategy for self-destruction” that allows the virus to mutate further.
It’s also unclear how much the funding will help in the short term. Some global health officials have complained that funding is not the problem when it comes to getting the vaccine to developing countries quickly because there isn’t enough vaccine to buy. A problem that the US contributed to by taking hundreds of millions of doses for Americans.
Biden will make the announcement at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Friday, where the global pandemic response is expected to be the focus of the meeting.