U.S. to stay a WHO member and be part of Covid vaccine plan

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

Patrick Semansky | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The US will remain a member of the World Health Organization under President Joe Biden, said Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday and intends to join a global alliance that aims to deliver coronavirus vaccines to low-income countries.

One day after Biden took office, the US chief medical officer spoke to the WHO Executive Board via videoconference from Washington: “President Biden will later issue a directive today that includes the United States’ intention to join COVAX and support the ACT – accelerators to advance multilateral efforts for Covid-19 vaccine distribution, therapeutic and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development. “

The Biden plan was released later on Thursday. Here are the details.

The US will remain a member of the WHO and “meet its financial obligations,” said Fauci. In May, then-President Donald Trump announced that the US would leave the WHO, but the process shouldn’t be completed until July this year.

Fauci said the Biden administration plans to work with the other 193 member states to “strengthen and reform” the United Nations health agency.

“This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health,” said Agency Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We’re all happy that the United States is staying with the family,” Tedros said on Twitter.

WHO delegates “warmly” welcomed the decision, and many underlined their appreciation that the new government would now attempt to reunite with the international aid group in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, noted that his announcement came exactly one year after the U.S. confirmed the first case of the coronavirus.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 96.9 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 2.07 million deaths. The United States has had the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths.

Fauci accepted Biden’s offer last month to join his administration and serve as chief medical officer. He leads a US delegation to WHO’s annual meetings during the week.

Trump versus WHO

Trump had repeatedly criticized the WHO for denouncing what he considered to be too “China-centered” and the amount of funds the US allocated to the health department compared to other countries.

The U.S. was the largest single donor to the Geneva-based aid group in 2019. They reportedly contributed more than $ 400 million, which is around 15% of the WHO budget.

WHO is funded through a combination of membership fees based on wealth and population and voluntary contributions.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at the 73rd virtual World Health Assembly (WHA) following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on May 18, 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Christopher Black | WHO | Reuters

Tedros said in August he hoped the US would reconsider its decision to leave the organization. The problem is “not the money”, but the lack of cooperation amid the pandemic.

Among 17 orders issued by Biden on his first day in office, the 46th President of the United States has stopped Trump’s proposal to withdraw from the WHO.

It was one of several major changes Biden is planning to address the raging coronavirus pandemic around the world.

The president also launched a “100 Days Masking Challenge,” which required Americans to wear masks for 100 days and required face-covering and physical distancing on federal properties. Biden also urged states and local governments to follow suit.

What is COVAX?

COVAX is one of the three pillars of the so-called Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which was introduced last April by the WHO, the European Commission and France. It focuses on equitable access to Covid diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

The Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi describes the initiative as “the only truly global solution to this pandemic as it is the only effort to ensure that people in all parts of the world have access to COVID-19 vaccines as they become available.” regardless of their wealth. “

190 countries and territories participate in COVAX, which is jointly managed by the World Health Organization Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation. It said it was able to secure the cans through additional supply agreements with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

COVAX has announced that first shipments will begin in the first quarter of 2021, when the drugs are approved. Sufficient doses should be given in the first half of the year to protect health and social workers in participating economies, according to Allianz.

COVAX plans to ship at least 1.3 billion doses to 92 low and middle-income countries that will participate in the facility sometime next year.

– CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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