FORT MYERS, FL — The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Its mission statement is to help coordinate and direct international health within its member states. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO’s work has been especially important in mobilizing aid for vulnerable populations worldwide and collaborating with nations to research the virus. In 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, the Trump administration announced its plan to withdraw the U.S. from WHO and threatened to cut funding towards the organization. Now, the Biden administration plans to preserve America’s membership in WHO, assist in humanitarian responses worldwide and join the COVAX facility. Here is a closer look as to why America joining COVAX is important to global health and poverty eradication goals.
America’s History with WHO
WHO’s membership is comprised of member states of the United Nations that have accepted the organization’s constitution. The U.N. formed the World Health Organization in 1948. America has been WHO’s top donor several times. It contributes “between $400 million to $500 million each year.” These funds have been crucial to helping people remain healthy in humanitarian crises and preventing the spread of disease and outbreaks.
WHO declared a worldwide response to COVID-19 as public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, and later a pandemic in March 2020. The Trump administration decided to cease funding to the organization a few months later. Withdrawing technical and financial support added to the challenges WHO faced in coordinating global responses and executing its Global Humanitarian Response Plan and other initiatives. With the Biden administration reversing the decision to withdraw from WHO, restoring funding and America joining COVAX, there is a brighter outlook for those in global poverty to receive aid.
What is COVAX?
COVAX is a pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. It is a multilateral effort that focuses on the equitable development and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to countries in poverty. WHO, GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations lead the initiative along with collaboration with organizations, such as UNICEF. Together, they plan and execute the vaccine’s delivery worldwide.
Every key nation, including now the U.S., has joined the facility to support its efforts in communicating with vaccine manufacturers to ensure that they have the needed incentives and investments to produce doses. Additionally, COVAX provides participating countries access to a wide range of research and updates about all types of vaccines, regardless of their ability to give funding. COVAX’s availability and support of all nations create a unique opportunity for global collaboration.
The Importance of COVAX
Since it is expected that COVAX will be the only source of vaccines for the most vulnerable countries, additional funding is vital to reaching its goal of vaccinating at least “20% of each participating population” by the end of 2021. Participation by the highest-income countries in the international system places COVAX in the best position to negotiate competitive prices and also pool funds for countries in poverty.
The U.S. is projected to be a much-needed contributor as COVAX plans to deliver 1.3 billion vaccines to 92 low-income countries. Evidently, it will take the help of every nation to reach this goal. Both Secretary of State Blinken and President Biden have demonstrated a willingness to aid this cause.
COVAX will deliver a projected total of 35.3 million AstraZeneca vaccines to several countries in the Americas, which include some of the poorest nations. It is in the United States’ best interest to continue committing to global initiatives to help the world’s poor as researchers worry that any further delays of vaccines to poor nations could threaten advanced economies. The collective health of the global community is at stake. Fortunately, with America joining COVAX and staying in WHO, millions of people in global poverty can receive the help they need.
– Giselle Ramirez-Garcia