The Biden administration has pledged to donate $4 billion to the global effort to make COVID-19 vaccines available to poor countries around the world. Although former President Donald Trump was not enthusiastic about the international effort by wealthier countries to make the vaccines available to the poorest countries, the US Congress had already signed off on the $4 billion allocations in December last year.
The allocation was made available to GAVI, a global vaccine distribution alliance initiative. According to the White House, the Biden administration will release $2 billion first in the next few weeks and another $500 million before the end of the year, and the last $1.5 billion by next year. The US will be releasing the donation in phases so as to motivate other major countries to pledge and also redeem their pledges in good time.
US officials make it clear that based on WHO’s projection, the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to be eliminated any time soon without the concerted efforts of global partners. Administration officials said inoculating people in other countries will ultimately safeguard the health of Americans at home, and that prioritizing the donation of vaccines to other countries will reduce the prioritizing of vaccinating people within the country.
“Decreasing the burden of disease decreases the risk to everyone in the world, including Americans,” an official said. “It also decreases the risk of variants occurring, like those that we’re seeing now. So it’s critically important to surge vaccination globally, while we’re, of course, prioritizing vaccinations here at home.”
Another official made it clear that the US government will only be providing surplus vaccines to other countries when the time comes since the government is still trying to source adequate vaccines to vaccinate everyone in the country. The official said the government will still support COVAX and related initiatives aimed at providing vaccines to people around the world, even though the government has only been able to buy 600 million vaccine doses for home use.
Meanwhile, China, Russian, and India have donated thousands of home-made COVID-19 vaccines to international partners and poorer countries around the world in a “vaccine diplomacy” program to save the world. When the United States will get round to this remains unknown. It will be recalled that the Trump administration exited WHO and would not support the COVAX program, but Biden is supporting the initiative and has re-established a partnership with WHO.