Biden Releases Funding for Vaccine Alliance

19.02.2021 - New US president Joe Biden has pledged to release altogether $4 billion in US funding to support Gavi, the global vaccine alliance. The president was expected to announce an initial $2 billion in funding at the virtual G-7 summit of the world’s largest economies on Feb. 19.

Global vaccine distribution will be one of the topics of discussion at the UK-hosted meeting, and several world leaders are said to have already made proposals.

Press reports quote UK prime minister Boris Johnson as saying his country will donate surplus vaccine supply through Covax, in addition to over $760 million in funding already allocated. Altogether more than 190 countries have agreed to contribute to the scheme. Covax has said it hopes to start distributing vaccines in the first half of 2021. 

The Biden administration has agreed to release an additional $2 billion over 2 years, once other donors have fulfilled their pledges. The money will be used by the Covax Facility, which aims to give low-income countries better access to vaccines, and will support a program jointly led by Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (EPI).

A bipartisan US congressional vote in 2020 appropriated the Covax funding; however, it was not released by the Trump administration because of the former president’s feud with the WHO, which he blamed for not being tough enough on China, where Covid first erupted.

Gavi’s lack of adequate progress up to now is blamed not only on insufficient funding, but also on wealthy nations nailing down the lion’s share of available vaccines. On Feb. 18, the organization announced a Memorandum of Understanding with US biotech Novavax to buy 1.1 billion doses.  This deal follows earlier agreements with Pfizer/BioNTech. AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson.

On Feb.17, UN secretary general António Guterres, speaking at a Security Council meeting, said that 10 countries account for 75% of all vaccinations to date, a situation he called “wildly uneven and unfair.”

Global health experts have expressed concern that the inequitable distribution of vaccines could prolong the pandemic, which would not only leaving developing countries at risk but also increase the likelihood of new variants.

Ahead of the G-7 summit, French President Emmanuel Macron told UK business daily Financial Times that the US and Europe should donate 4-5% of the Covid vaccine doses they ordered to developing countries. Western vaccines are being sold to African nations at astronomical prices, but these countries are being offered cheaper Chinese and Russian shots of uncertain efficacy against new variants of the virus, Macron told the newspaper.

According to figures published by Duke University in the US, high-income countries among them have secured over 4.6 billion vaccine doses, compared with2.5 billion for all middle-income and lower-income countries combined.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist