TACOMA, Washington — On February 19, 2021, President Biden announced the allocation of $4 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for the global COVID-19 vaccine effort. The first $2 billion of global vaccine aid will go toward immediate assistance. The gradual release of the rest of the funding over two years forms part of an attempt to secure more U.S. donor commitments to the vaccine initiative.
US Global Vaccine Aid
Biden made the announcement during a virtual meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders, an intergovernmental organization consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The $4 billion Gavi funding received approval in December 2020. Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation run COVAX together, with the aim of vaccinating 20% of the populations of the world’s 92 lowest-income countries by the close of 2021.
The Biden administration asserts that vaccination funding is imperative in order to end the global pandemic and restore economies worldwide. “This pandemic is not going to end if we don’t end it globally,” said a senior official in the Biden administration. The official says that apart from saving lives, it is also essential from an international security and economic viewpoint. Biden plans to emphasize worldwide cooperation as a strategy to end the pandemic, urging other G7 leaders to deliver on their promises of global vaccine aid. More than 190 countries have now joined COVAX as part of a global COVID-19 vaccine effort to end the pandemic.
The Urgency of Global Vaccine Aid
Gavi said in November 2020 that more than $2 billion had been pledged for global vaccination efforts but at least $5 billion more was necessary. The U.S. contribution of $4 billion brings COVAX closer to its global vaccine target but up to $15 billion more is needed from international donors. This added aid will accelerate these efforts.
Biden also plans to donate any leftover doses from the United States vaccine program to COVAX but no official decision has been made as yet.
Other G7 leaders have already pledged billions of dollars in global vaccine aid. Countries such as the Netherlands have made vaccine relief a cornerstone of their foreign aid policies and others have pledged to donate their surplus vaccine supply to COVAX. At the G7 vaccine summit, Boris Johnson announced his plan to donate a significant portion of Britain’s leftover vaccine doses to the worldwide vaccine effort and urged wealthy nations “to back a 100-day target for developing new vaccines for future emerging diseases.” After the meeting, the G7 leaders issued a statement about the need to “intensify cooperation on the health response to COVID-19” and support for “affordable and equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, reflecting the role of extensive immunization as a global public good.”
World leaders expressed support for the need to distribute vaccines more equitably across lower-income nations. Wealthier nations like Australia, Canada and the United States managed to acquire doses to cover their populations two times over or more. On the other hand, lower-income countries struggle to cover themselves even once.
Looking Toward the Future
Ensuring the vaccination of the entire world requires a collaborative global effort. It is important to note that one unvaccinated country affects the entire global population. This fact illustrates the urgency of adequate funding for the global COVID-19 vaccine effort.
– Eliza Browning