U.S. global vaccine distribution saves lives

A nurse prepares to test a volunteer for COVID-19 at the University of Miami September 2. Miami is one of dozens of U.S. cities where testing is underway for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. (© Taimy Alvarez/AP Images)
The USAID Maternal and Child Survival Program supports health initiatives in 23 countries, including Kenya, where this child was vaccinated in East Pokot in 2016. (USAID/MCSP/Allan Gichigi)

The United States’ support for the worldwide distribution of vaccines has saved countless lives and laid the groundwork for distributing a future COVID-19 vaccine.

Through international partnerships like the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. private sector have invested billions of dollars over the past 20 years in vaccine distribution and other efforts to prevent such diseases as measles, rubella, yellow fever, diphtheria and polio.

USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick said in June that U.S. investment in the global infrastructure for distributing vaccines will serve as a foundation for future COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

“Our support reflects American generosity and compassion, but it also demonstrates our understanding that global health security is a collective effort,” she said in a June 4 tweet. “As the current pandemic has demonstrated, a disease threat anywhere is a disease threat everywhere.”

A nurse prepares to test a volunteer for COVID-19 at the University of Miami September 2. Miami is one of dozens of U.S. cities where testing is underway for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. (© Taimy Alvarez/AP Images)

The U.S. is a world leader in medical research and is supporting the development of several vaccines for COVID-19 that are in the final stages of testing. The U.S. has also made significant investments to ensure vaccines will be made available quickly once they are proven safe and effective.

The U.S. has committed more than $20.5 billion to the global fight against COVID-19, building on long-standing global health programs and cooperation with international partners.

Since 2001, the U.S. government, through USAID, has contributed close to $2.8 billion to Gavi to support the vaccination of more than 822 million children in the world’s poorest countries, saving more than 14 million lives.

In June, USAID announced a $1.16 billion commitment to support Gavi’s efforts to reach 300 million more children with lifesaving vaccines and save an additional 8 million lives. This contribution is over fiscal years 2020-2023 and is subject to congressional approval.

Launched with the full support of the U.S. in 1988, GPEI’s vaccination efforts have contributed to a more than 99.9% drop in wild polio cases worldwide. In August, Africa achieved a historic public health milestone: the eradication of the wild poliovirus.

The CDC has provided more than $2 billion in funding to GPEI, and USAID is also a long-standing donor.

The U.S. and partner organizations have also helped overcome logistical hurdles to distributing vaccines. USAID has funded single-use syringes for safe injections and warning labels that change color when a vaccine has been exposed to temperatures that would make it ineffective.

U.S. companies have supported innovations for timely detection of vaccine-preventable diseases and safer delivery of vaccines. This technology could later be used to deliver vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases.

“There is no nation that has been or will be as deeply committed to delivering vaccines all around the world as the United States of America,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said September 2.