The Biden administration is in danger of halting its efforts to help vaccinate the world because U.S. lawmakers had cut global pandemic funding from the omnibus spending bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this week.
The $ 1.5 trillion expense bill did not include the $ 15.6 billion requested for the COVID-19 response, of which $ 5 billion had been earmarked by the White House to fight coronavirus around the world.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told VOA during a briefing Friday that the administration did not have an alternative plan for they deliver 700 million doses of vaccines back from the 1.2 billion doses it had promised.
“We need additional funding to remain the arsenal of vaccines,” she said. “There is not a secret fund that we have not told you about to continue to provide the type of free programs we have in the United States, or to provide the level of international assistance that we would like to continue to provide. . “
A White House official confirmed that the 1.2 billion doses of vaccine had been purchased. However, the lack of funding will destroy America’s ability to ensure that recipient countries can implement them effectivelyand to provide testing, therapy, oxygen and humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to cope with the pandemic.
The Pandemic Fund was revoked after Republican lawmakers refused to add new coronavirus spending unless it was offset by cuts elsewhere.
In early March, 36 Republican senators sent a letter (()) to Biden, saying that before considering further COVID-19 requests, they wanted an account of how the federal government had allocated taxpayers’ funds to fight the pandemic. “Congress must receive a full account of how the government has already spent the first $ 6 trillion,” the letter said.
The House Democrats have introduced an independent COVID-19 emergency law, but it does not yet have the votes to pass both chambers of Congress.
The focus of the strategy narrowed
Just last month, the administration said it would adjust its global pandemic response strategy, turn away from increasing vaccine supply and towards increasing delivery capacity. But now it can no longer finance Global Vaxits international initiative launched in December.
“Without additional funding to support the firing of weapons, USAID will have to limit our growing efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations – just as countries will finally have access to the vaccine supplies needed to protect their citizens,” Samantha said. Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in a statement.
Humanitarian organizations criticized the removal of COVID-19 funds from the Omnibus Act.
The United States will not be able to “continue the fight against COVID at home and around the world – a serious concern given the rising rises in Asia and Europe,” Tom Hart, president of the ONE campaign, said in a statement to VOA.
Hart said that if large parts of the world remain vulnerable to the virus and its variants, Americans’ own health and economic recovery are in jeopardy. “What should be a no-brainer after two years of a pandemic has proved impossible for world leaders and legislators to grasp: We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere. Congress can and must fix this,” he said. said Hart.
Only 14.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, according to Our world in data.
While the United States remains largest vaccine donor (()) By and large, public health officials called the lack of global funding for pandemic control “self-destructive.”
“US leadership for a robust and effective global response is the best way to end the pandemic, build resilient health systems and be better prepared for future health security threats,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, Founding Director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
“We can not fully protect the health and economic prosperity of Americans without doing more around the world,” Udayakumar told VOA.
The cut in funding for the pandemic response came as lawmakers agreed to $ 13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, including $ 6.5 billion to supply Kiev with weapons while fighting Russia’s invasion and $ 6.7 billion for economic and humanitarian aid to the country.