Healthcare

Biden will join WHO-backed vaccine initiative

Secretary of State designee Antony Blinken said President-elect Joe Biden intends to join Covax, the World Health Organization-led effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine to low- and middle-income countries. 

Biden previously had not officially committed to participating in the initiative.

"We believe strongly that we can ensure that every American gets the vaccine, but also help make sure that others around the world who want it have access to it," Blinken told senators during a confirmation hearing Tuesday.

The Trump administration in September said it would not join the alliance, sparking criticism from public health experts who said it represented a myopic view of a global effort. 

Virtually every country in the world is participating in the initiative, except for the U.S and Russia.

The Trump administration at the time said it did not want to "be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China."

Global health agencies launched the Covax project to ensure that poor and developing countries could get access to a coronavirus vaccine at the same rate as wealthy and developed nations.

WHO officials have said Covax needs additional funding to fulfill its goal of vaccinating at least 20 percent of the population in every country by the end of 2021. 

According to the WHO, Covax has already ordered 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with options for 1 billion more. 

But the organization is warning that wealthy countries are hoarding vaccine doses, which could delay the delivery of Covax-funded vaccines and put poor countries at risk. Health experts caution the pandemic will not end until it is under control globally.

Laura Kelly contributed 

Outbrain