Healthcare

US to increase COVID-19 vaccination help for 11 African countries

A woman receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a center, in Soweto, South Africa
Associated Press/Denis Farrell

The Biden administration is increasing support for COVID-19 vaccinations to 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as part of a broader effort to boost vaccination rates.  

The effort from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will focus on getting shots into arms in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. 

Experts have urged more action on global vaccinations both for humanitarian reasons and even for the self-interest of wealthier countries like the United States, given that new variants of the virus can develop anywhere and end up threatening the whole world. That scenario played out with the omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa, that then struck the U.S. and other countries across the globe.

The surge in support, which was first reported by The Washington Post, comes as part of a broader effort, called the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, that was announced in December with $315 million for vaccine delivery. It aims not just to provide the vaccines themselves, but to help actually get shots into arms. That means assistance in areas like cold chain storage and setting up mobile vaccination sites.  

“The U.S. government will surge support for an initial subset of countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have demonstrated the potential for rapid acceleration of vaccine uptake with intensive financial, technical, and diplomatic support,” a USAID spokesperson said Thursday. 

Some advocates and Democrats in Congress have been urging the Biden administration to step up its efforts to vaccinate the world, including with support for $17 billion in additional funding for global vaccination efforts, as well as moves to share the know-how for making vaccines and to ramp up manufacturing.  

It remains unclear whether the Biden administration will request more funding for global vaccinations from Congress, after officials signaled a need for $30 billion more in funds focused on domestic needs earlier this week.  

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