President Joe Biden plans to announce Friday that the United States will immediately contribute $2 billion to the global effort to provide COVID-19 vaccine access to lower-income economies.
Biden plans to make the announcement during remarks at Friday’s G-7 meeting, according to White House officials.
The funds, which were already appropriated in the fiscal 2021 omnibus spending package, will flow to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private organization aimed at increasing immunization rates. The global effort seeks to ensure vaccine availability in 92 economies and countries recognized as being lower and moderate income.
A second tranche of $2 billion, fulfilling a total commitment of $4 billion, will come available once other donors fulfill commitments and vaccine delivery can commence, according to the White House.
“Under President Biden, the United States will take a leadership role in galvanizing new donor commitments toward the COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access] facility. The next $2 billion of support from the U.S. 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 White House explained in a fact sheet.
White House officials highlighted the need to focus not only on vaccine production, but also supply chain and delivery challenges around the world.
“We are going to call on G-7 partners tomorrow, both to you know, make good on the pledges that are already out there to turn those into dollars as quickly as possible in cases, in the cases where they haven’t been, but also importantly, to call on other G-7 and G-20 partners and other governments around the world to put more dollars not only into COVAX but into expanding the manufacturing capability, expanding the supply network, and expanding the vaccination and distribution networks — the last mile delivery systems to be able to make sure that those vaccines are translated into vaccination,” a White House official said on a background briefing call announcing the plans.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted at the announcement Wednesday during his remarks at the United Nations Security Council.
“We plan to provide significant financial support to COVAX through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and we will work to strengthen other multilateral initiatives involved in the global COVID-19 response,” Blinken said. “For example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. These commitments build on a long tradition.”
White House officials also said Thursday that the administration also would look at the possibility of donating surplus vaccine doses once there is an adequate supply for the U.S. population, but perhaps not until that point. The Biden administration has committed to purchasing a total of 600 million doses of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that are already in use in the United States.
A White House official said in the same memorandum outlining the funding to support COVAX that Biden is requesting the U.S. government, “look at developing a framework to donate surplus vaccines once there is a sufficient supply in the United States.”
“So while we’re not able to share vaccine doses at this time while we’re focused on American vaccinations and getting shots into arms,” the official said. “We’re working hard to support COVAX, strengthen global vaccination around the world and determining the timeline for when we will have a sufficient supply in the United States and be able to donate surplus vaccines.”
Officials had been asked whether the United States might have a surplus of vaccine doses for international assistance efforts if and when the single-dose vaccine candidate from Johnson & Johnson wins authorization for emergency use.
“Certainly, we have to prioritize what’s happening here at home, that needs to be our highest priority. But pandemics, they travel as we know, and we also know that the more disease that’s out there, the more likely we are to see additional mutations and variants,” a White House official said when asked about the importance of backing international efforts. “We also know that this is going to continue to impact the global economy, it’s going to continue to impact global health, and it’s reversing decades of gains that we’ve made in global health and development with bipartisan U.S. development funding around the world.”
“In addition to saving a lot of lives, which is obviously one of our highest priorities, it’s also the right thing to do from an international security and economic perspective to benefit everyone in America,” the official said.