Biden prioritizes U.S. support for global COVID-19 response

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 22 in Bethesda, Maryland. The Biden administration is stepping up U.S. support for global vaccine distribution efforts. (© Patrick Sema
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 22 in Bethesda, Maryland. The Biden administration is stepping up U.S. support for global vaccine distribution efforts. (© Patrick Sema

By Leigh Hartman

President Biden’s top priority is ridding the world of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On his first full day in office, Biden issued a presidential directive making global health security a top national security priority, as well as a national strategy (PDF, 24.6MB) for fighting COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics.

“U.S. international engagement to combat COVID-19, promote health and advance global health security is urgent to save lives, promote economic recovery and develop resilience against future biological catastrophes,” the national strategy says. “The Biden-Harris administration will restore America’s role in leading the world through global crises.”

Biden’s national security directive on U.S. global leadership in fighting the pandemic calls for the United States to reinvigorate the international response to COVID-19 through steps including:

  • Reviewing funding for the COVID-19 response and global health security and biodefense.
  • Ensuring global health security considerations are central to United States foreign policy.
  • Assisting developing countries in preparing for, preventing, detecting and responding to COVID-19 and other infectious disease threats.

Other orders and directives call for an equitable pandemic response and recovery, a sustainable public health workforce and supply chains, and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

“Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease,” Biden said in his Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing.

Many recent actions focus on strengthening U.S. support for the global fight against COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics.

Biden reversed a plan for the United States to withdraw from the World Health Organization and will join the international vaccine distribution efforts, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility and the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

“We will commit to building global health security capacity, expanding pandemic preparedness and supporting efforts to strengthen health systems around the world,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told WHO leadership on January 21. “[T]he United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated Strategy for Global Response to COVID-19 prioritizes reducing the global burden of COVID-19 and calls for using the CDC’s scientific and technical expertise to support other countries in fighting the disease.

“Beating this pandemic will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we have ever faced as a nation,” Biden said in a letter introducing the national strategy. “I believe we are ready.”