Biden bolsters U.S. support for COVID-19 vaccinations abroad

President Biden has directed the United States to join COVAX, a global effort to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to people in need around the world. (© Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
President Biden has directed the United States to join COVAX, a global effort to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to people in need around the world. (© Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

By Leigh Hartman

The United States is joining international efforts to ensure COVID-19 vaccines and treatments reach countries around the world.

President Biden on January 21 directed the U.S. government to join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility. The international initiative seeks to ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines and fairly distribute 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021.

“[T]he United States plans to work multilaterally to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser. Fauci also announced that the U.S. would rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO) and participate in global vaccine distribution efforts the WHO supports.

The United States will now work to advance global access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments through international initiatives, including:

  • Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator: A global effort to promote access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for the fight against COVID-19.
  • COVAX: The vaccines branch of the ACT Accelerator seeks to distribute effective COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
  • Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance: Started in 2000, Gavi is a global partnership that helps vaccinate nearly half the world’s children against deadly diseases and backs COVAX in the fight against COVID-19.

Through COVAX, countries pool resources to support vaccine development and distribution. The initiative, convened by the WHO, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, also ensures that developing countries can afford vaccines.

The United States is a long-time supporter of Gavi and other global vaccination campaigns, such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. U.S. agencies and the U.S. private sector invested billions in the past 20 years to prevent diseases including measles, rubella, yellow fever, diphtheria and polio.

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also announced billions of dollars in aid to help governments and international groups fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In December, the U.S. government approved $4 billion for Gavi to help ensure equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

“This support from the American people will help Gavi procure and deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses for lower-income economies through the Gavi COVAX AMC,” Dr. Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, said in December. “It will also shorten this crisis, save lives and help restart the global economy. In today’s interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”