Harris unveils $250M commitment to new global health fund

Vice President Harris on Wednesday called for a new global health security fund at the World Bank to focus on pandemic preparedness, with the Biden administration planning to contribute $250 million in seed funding, a White House official said.

Harris, who made the announcement while leading a session of a global COVID-19 virtual summit, also revealed that the administration is requesting $850 million from Congress for the financial intermediary fund (FIF). The Biden administration is setting a goal of reaching $10 billion for the fund at the outset.

“The truth is the work to end this pandemic and prepare for the next is a strategic imperative. It is essential to our security and our shared prosperity and it will save countless lives,” Harris said in prepared remarks at the outset of the meeting.

Without a new mechanism providing “predictable” funding on top of emergency systems in place, she said, the globe “will never be fully prepared” for the next biological crisis.

The vice president described the goal of $10 billion for the financial intermediary fund as “ambitious” but “achievable” as she urged other nations and private organizations to contribute.

“That is a fraction of a percent of global GDP,” she noted.

Such funds typically leverage public and private investments to support global initiatives. Both Harris and President Biden have previously called for a financial intermediary fund to address global health security.

“To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible and to expand access to oxygen, tests, treatments to save lives around the world,” Biden said in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. “And for the future, we need to create a new mechanism to finance global health security that builds on our existing development assistance.”

Additionally, Harris asked countries and organizations to set up a Global Health Threats Council that would elevate biological threats to heads of state, with the goal of staving off the next public health crisis. Biden similarly called for the creation of a Global Health Threats Council during his remarks at the U.N.

Harris on Wednesday afternoon chaired the third section of Biden’s virtual COVID-19 summit focused on preventing future pandemics. The summit, which coincides with the United Nations General Assembly, convened countries as well as private organizations, and Biden used it to rally the global community to do more to vaccinate the world’s population.

In timing with the summit, the White House announced plans to purchase an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to the global population through COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed vaccine initiative. Administration officials said that, with the new announcement, the U.S. has committed to shipping 1.1 billion vaccine doses abroad.

—Updated at 1:32 p.m.

Tags COVID-19 Joe Biden pandemic preparedness pandemic preparedness funding
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