WASHINGTON, DC, 19 February 2021 – U.S. President Joe Biden pledged $4 billion in support to the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX.
Biden said an initial $2 billion will be released by the end of February 2021, with the rest of the funding becoming available later.
A senior White House official on Friday told the Associated Press (AP) that the additional $2 billion pledged by Biden will become available over the next two years.
“We do think it is vital to take a role in bearing the pandemic globally,” the official was cited Friday by the Associated Press as saying.
The announcement in support of the COVAX initiative, which former president Donald Trump spurned, was made during Friday’s virtual summit of the world’s seven richest nations (G7), the first attended by Biden as president of the United States.
“We have reiterated our commitment to COVAX, and I don’t have any additional funding note to announce today,” White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters during the White House Press Briefing on Friday, in response to a question from the Voice of America..
While we are prioritizing domestic needs right here in the United States, assistance to other countries “decreases the risk to everyone in the world, including Americans, and also decreases the risk of variants,” the AP reported Friday, citing the White House official.
Biden announced within 24 hours of being inaugurated last January 20, that the U.S. would rejoin the WHO, reversing the decision taken in July 2020 by the Trump administration to formally withdraw from the world body..
Former U.S. President Donald Trump accused the WHO of being a puppet of China during the pandemic.
In his speech to G7 summit, Biden said the United States rejoined the WHO so that “we can build better global preparedness to counter COVID-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.”
The United Kingdom, which chaired Friday’s G7 summit, pledged to provide its surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX.
The pledge from London came barely hours after French President Emmanuel Macron had urged rich countries, in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, to contribute up to five percent of their COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last November promised to turn over its excess vaccine doses to poorer countries via COVAX.
“If we have more vaccines than necessary, absolutely we will be sharing with the world,” Trudeau told Evan Solomon host of CTV’s Question Period.
Led by the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX is an unprecedented multilateral effort focused on ensuring the equitable distribution of two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world’s poorest countries before the end of 2021.
More than 190 countries – including nearly every rich country – have joined COVAX and pledged support 92 low-and middle-income economies worldwide.
The COVAX initiative creates a global market for COVID-19 shots while using high membership and collective bargaining power to bring prices down.
COVAX has two parts: first, a purchasing pool for higher-income countries and, second, a fundraising effort for poor countries.
By promising to buy a certain number of vaccine doses from manufacturers, countries that join COVAX get access to any vaccines that are approved in COVAX’s portfolio.
So far, the biggest contributors to COVAX have come from, among others, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank ($600 million), France ($120 million), Spain $60 million), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($156 million), and the Republic of Korea ($10 million).
As of last November, over $2 billion had been raised to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, according to the World Health Organization, which at the time added that an additional $5 billion was needed in 2021.
The World Bank Group (WBG) has provided the single biggest standalone contribution – a whopping $12 billion in funding announced in mid-October 2020 in support of efforts by developing countries.
World Bank funding is dedicated “to finance the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments” for citizens of the world’s poorest nation, the global institution said in an October 13, 2020 press statement on its website.
The target is to support vaccination of up to a billion people, the statement explained.
The $12 billion package is part of $160 billion that the world body has committed to provide through June 2021 to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-induced crises: economic, financial and social.
“We are extending and expanding our fast-track approach to address the COVID emergency so that developing countries have fair and equal access to vaccines,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.
World Bank funding also supports supply chain and logistics management for vaccine storage handling.
Some of the financing is also dedicated to the training of vaccinators and the rollout of large-scale communication and outreach campaigns to reach communities and households across the developing world.
“Access to safe and effective vaccines and strengthened delivery systems is key to alter the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts move toward a resilient recovery,” World Bank President Malpass said..
As of Friday, 19 February 2021, at least 110 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus worldwide, with more than 2.4 million fatalities linked to health complications brought about by the virus.