SEATTLE, Washington — Under the Trump Administration, the United States withdrew from the World Health Organization (WHO). The former president sent a letter to the organization. He gave a one-year notice that the United States would no longer commit to or fund the WHO. This was in July 2020 so the United States never officially withdrew. However, as the U.S. recommits to the WHO under Biden, discussions will occur over how that will proceed. With this recommitment came a confirmation hearing in which Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State-designate, revealed that the U.S. will also be participating in COVAX. COVAX is the “international effort to source and distribute vaccines.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci
The Biden Administration announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the current top infectious disease expert in the U.S., will serve as the head of the U.S. delegation to the WHO as the U.S. recommits to it. Fauci then addressed the organization with his hopes for the future regarding the relationship between the U.S. and the WHO. He stated that the United States will “resume regular engagement of U.S. government personnel with the WHO both directly and through our WHO Collaborating Centers.” The New York Times also reported that in a letter that President Biden sent to António Gutteres, the WHO’s secretary-general of the United Nations, Biden pledged his full support to the WHO. He stated that “the United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.”
Other Scientists’ Reactions
Scientists around the country are elated at this news. They are eager for the enactment of policies that will help those the pandemic affected. Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington, and Barry Bloom, an immunologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, are both happy with the news. They are confident that the United States government’s recommitment and return to multilateralism. It is their belief that this change in approach will yield positive results for the country, the organization and global health.
How Much Will the US Participate?
As the U.S. recommits to the WHO under Biden, its extent of involvement is unclear. This recommitment is both practical and symbolic. On one hand, the funding the U.S. will provide will help the WHO have a more balanced budget; on the other, there is symbolism in that the country was previously a major player in the organization and on a global public health scale. Per Dr. Fauci’s statement to the organization, “the United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization.” His statement answers the question of the financial commitment to the WHO from the United States. However, it leaves some things to question, like the amount of said financial commitment that the Biden Administration will adhere to.
– Grace Aprahamian