Without approving a single dollar of the $5 billion he requested for his global response to COVID-19, the key program of the Administration of President Joe Biden to help vaccinate the world is in danger of stopping.
Despite the administration marking World Health Day on Thursday with a commitment to building a “safer, healthier and more equitable” future around the world, without additional funding from Congress, in September the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will no longer be able to fund the Global Vax initiative.
The United States launched the international initiative in December to send injections to 11 countries: Angola, Ivory Coast, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
“Without additional funding to support arm injection, USAID will have to scale back its growing efforts to turn vaccines into a campaign, just as countries finally gain access to the vaccine supplies needed to protect their citizens,” a spokesperson said. from USAID to the voice of america. USAID had initially requested $19 billion for its global vaccination efforts.
USAID had planned to expand Global Vax to an additional 20 countries, but those plans are now on hold.
Without additional funding, the US will also be unable to provide oxygen and other vital supplies around the world, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters earlier this week.
“And our global genome sequencing capabilities will drop and undermine our ability to detect any emerging variants around the world,” Zients added.
On Monday, the US Senate agreed to provide $10 billion in supplemental funding for the nationwide COVID-19 response, but did not approve the $5 billion requested by the White House for its global efforts against the pandemic.
With Senate Republicans insisting that any new pandemic spending be paid for with unspent funds from the nearly $6 billion of COVID-19 legislation that had already passed, Senate Democrats dropped the request for international financing to first approve the national package.
“While we were unable to agree on international aid in this new deal, many Democrats and Republicans are committed to seeking a second add-on later this spring,” said Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who had been leading negotiations with Schumer on the $10 billion national COVID-19 response package, said he is willing to explore a fiscally responsible solution to support global anti-pandemic efforts in the US. next weeks.
From airports to arms
Globally, the problem nowIt is not the lack of doses of vaccinesbut the ability to get them “from airports to arms,” explained Krishna Udayakumar, who leads a team at Duke University that tracks global vaccine production, distribution and donation.
“How do we make sure that the trained vaccinators are there, the data system, the cold chain, that’s where a lot more money is needed,” Udayakumar told the FLY.
The administration has already purchased all of the 1.2 billion doses of vaccine it has pledged to donate around the world. However, without the additional funding, some are in danger of going out of date in US warehouses, said Tom Hart, a global health advocate.
Hart, president of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization fighting preventable diseases, said that in his decades-long career in global health he has never seen the US back down on its commitment.
“In the 20 years that I’ve been doing this, every time we’ve made a commitment to deliver something, the United States has been able to keep that promise and has created tremendous goodwill around the world,” Hart told the FLY.
But now, the credibility of the United States is at stake. “We have said with great fanfare that we have these incredibly effective doses. And they are put here in the United States, ready to reach those who need them, and we cannot get them to them, ”he asserted.
The White House said it will continue to work with lawmakers to push for additional international funding.
“We’re not there yet,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when the FLY He asked about the fate of those undelivered doses. “And our hope is that we can turn … vaccines into vaccines.”
Other multilateral programs may need to step in to take over from the US, including the COVID Vaccine Delivery Partnership Mechanism established earlier this year as the next phase of COVAX, the Organization-backed international vaccine clearinghouse. World Health and the health organizations Gavi and CEPI.
*Katherine Gypson, VOA Congressional Correspondent, contributed to this report.
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