Wednesday, 24 February, 2021


Biden pledges $4 billion for COVAX vaccinations program

SERBIA-HEALTH-VIRUS-VACCINE Poor countries and global health advocates have been pushing wealthy nations to share some of their supply | Andrej Isakovic AFP via Getty Images
Hannah Rogers | 19 February, 2021, 20:52

The comments come one day before Biden will join the G7 virtual meeting, where leaders of major industrialized nations are set to address anxiety over a global vaccine rollout that's left behind poor countries. Allowing high numbers of infections to continue across the world is also likely to lead to new virus variants that can threaten to prolong the pandemic for rich and poor countries alike, experts argue.

Advocates have called on the Biden administration and other wealthy nations to make plans for donating surplus doses, in addition to ramping up their financial contributions.

But Biden, who announced last week that the US will have enough supply of the vaccine by the end of the summer to inoculate 300 million people, remains focused for now on making sure every American is inoculated, administration officials say.

"This huge excess is the embodiment of vaccine nationalism", said Jenny Ottenhoff, ONE Campaign's senior director for policy. The Biden administration official on a Thursday background call made clear the priority is vaccinating Americans.

Johnson also confirmed that Britain would share the majority of any future surplus vaccine with the UN-backed Covax initiative that distributes vaccines fairly between richer and poorer countries.

Johnson, who himself became seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 last year, is using Britain's presidency of the G7 this year to drive a health plan that would enable the speedy creation of new vaccines to combat other deadly diseases and pandemics that might emerge in the future.

Other wealthy nations have also begun reserving large orders of vaccines, leaving poorer nations to rely on the COVAX initiative for their populations - or on countries such as China, India and Russian Federation, who have begun directly donating their state-produced vaccines to other nations.

"The United States is really excited to be making our first contribution to COVAX", said the official. So far, World Health Organization has yet to give emergency use authorization to the Russian and Chinese-made vaccines, which have lingering questions about their efficacy rates.A decision on the vaccines produced by China's Sinovac and Sinopharm is expected next month, at the earliest.

"Our filing with the World Health Organization marks another important step in our effort to combat COVID-19 and also in our unwavering commitment to equitable access", Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson vice chairman of the executive committee, and chief scientific officer, said in a news release. The first COVAX doses are expected to begin arriving in dozens of countries next week.

Other rich nations like the United Kingdom pledged this week to do the same with their surplus vaccine doses.

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