The U.S. government is investing $ 400 million in a new program to help countries quickly deliver vaccines to their citizens, an effort that comes amid fears that the Delta and Omicron variants could lead to a new wave of cases.
The US Agency for International Development said in a statement Monday that the program, called the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, “would strengthen international coordination” to help countries “overcome barriers to access to vaccines.”
“As vaccine supplies increase to low- and middle-income countries, the United States and other donors must redouble their efforts to help countries,” the statement said, adding that the agency will focus on African countries.
Three-quarters of the money will go to administering vaccines in remote areas and helping countries with vaccine policies and supply chain logistics, the agency said.
The rest of the money will be used to help areas where there is an increase in cases and to help countries manufacture vaccines locally, the agency said.
The press release says the new funds are in addition to the $ 1.3 billion already committed. Experts said that in addition to donating vaccines, it is important that richer countries help other countries invest in vaccine infrastructure. However, an expert said the program, known as Global Vax, was not quite enough.
“It’s not enough to dramatically speed up global immunization, but it’s an important step,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of law at Georgetown University who specializes in public health.
The new program comes as Covax, the UN-backed multibillion-dollar alliance, has failed to meet its goal of acquiring doses for poor countries. The alliance includes international health agencies and non-profit organizations whose goal is to ensure, through sheer purchasing power, that poor countries receive vaccines as quickly as the rich.
It was supposed to be a world power, but instead it faced months of missteps and disappointments. The alliance has struggled to get the doses from airport tarmacs into people’s arms.
Officials in the Biden administration say several African countries, including South Africa, are now refusing vaccine donations because their supply exceeds demand – in part because of vaccine reluctance. But global public health experts say there is another reason: Some countries are not equipped to distribute and administer the doses they receive, which often arrive at short notice.
The urgent need to immunize the world goes far beyond protecting people in poor countries. The longer the virus circulates, the more dangerous it can become, even for people vaccinated in wealthy countries.
Without billions of additional doses, experts warn, new variants could continue to emerge, endangering all nations.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reports.