The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden will announce $4 billion in funding for COVAX, a global initiative aimed at providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines that former President Donald Trump eschewed during his administration.
President Biden will announce the move during a virtual meeting of G-7 leaders on Friday.
"This pandemic is not going to end unless we end it globally," an official told reporters, adding: "It's absolutely imperative that we end this pandemic globally and we'll need a high level of ambition, from the United States and other partners, to be able to do that."
"COVID has shown us that no nation can act alone in the face of a pandemic," the White House wrote in a statement. "Today, President Biden is taking action to support the world’s most vulnerable and protect Americans from COVID-19."
Biden is expected to urge other G-7 and G-20 leaders to contribute to COVAX, which is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The Trump administration did not participate in the program, in part, because of its association with the WHO, which Trump began the process of withdrawing from; on day one of his administration, Biden halted the withdrawal, and recently committed to pay more than $200 million in membership fees withheld by the previous administration.
"The United States will also take a leadership role in galvanizing further global contributions to COVAX by releasing an additional $2 billion through 2021 and 2022, of which the first $500 million will be made available when existing donor pledges are fulfilled and initial doses are delivered to AMC countries. In close cooperation with Gavi, this additional $2 billion in funding will serve to expand COVAX’s reach," the White House said in a statement. "We also call on our G7 and other partners to work alongside Gavi, to bring in billions more in resources to support global COVID-19 vaccination, and to target urgent vaccine manufacturing, supply, and delivery needs."
The funding for the program will begin with a $2 billion contribution appropriated by Congress in December; $500 billion will be available "rather quickly," an administration official told reporters.
COVAX's goal is to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries; many of the COVID-19 vaccines have been snapped up by wealthier countries, leaving others for a potentially lengthy wait.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea highlight the need for sustainable health security financing to catalyze country capacity to prevent biological catastrophes," the White House said in a statement.
COVAX hopes to start distributing vaccines in the first half of 2021.