The Biden administration is investing an additional $315 million to help deliver COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries as the omicron variant of the coronavirus highlights the need to vaccinate the world.
United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha PowerSamantha PowerUSAID's 0 million Global VAX initiative can work, but only if it pays for shots in arms Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance US investing 5 million in vaccine delivery for lower-income countries MORE made the announcement during a global COVID-19 meeting on Monday, saying the world is at an “inflection point” in the fight against the virus.
The new funds are part of an increased focus on getting shots actually into arms around the world, not just delivering the vaccines themselves, Power said.
The appeal from our partner nations has expanded,” she said. “They are not just asking for doses; they are urging us to provide support that will allow them to administer those doses.”
Some countries have identified a range of problems in administering the doses, from vaccines arriving too close to their expiration date, to lacking the necessary cold storage.
The $315 million in new funds will help with cold storage and other logistics, as well as in launching mobile vaccination sites and deploying health workers, USAID said.
The U.S. is also investing $10 million in vaccine manufacturing in other countries, and $75 million to strengthen the availability of oxygen in areas experiencing surges of the virus, bringing the total announcement to $400 million. The administration said that is on top of $1.3 billion already committed for vaccine readiness.
The new funds come from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year.
Advocates have been pushing for months for the Biden administration to do much more to vaccinate the world. Experts say the omicron variant highlights that new variants can emerge and threaten every country as long as large groups of people remain unvaccinated.
Advocates have been calling in particular for the Biden administration to compel vaccine makers to share their know-how with other countries to allow more vaccine doses to be made around the world.
“After millions of COVID-19 deaths, the United States’ global response to combatting the pandemic has mainly consisted of drips and drabs,” said Steve Knievel, an advocate at the progressive group Public Citizen’s access to medicines program.
“A few hundred million dollars to support global vaccine delivery is welcome, but significantly bolder, urgent action is needed to bring the pandemic under control,” he added.