Biden addressed the opening of the virtual summit Thursday morning with prerecorded remarks and made the case that tackling COVID-19 “must remain an international priority.” The U.S. is co-hosting the summit along with Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and Belize.
The lack of funding — Biden has requested another $22.5 billion of what he calls critically needed money — is a reflection of faltering resolve at home that jeopardizes the global response to the pandemic.
Eight months after he used the first such summit to announce an ambitious pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses to the world, the urgency of the U.S. and other nations to respond has waned.
Momentum on vaccinations and treatments has faded even as more infectious variants rise and billions of people across the globe remain unprotected.
The U.S. has shipped nearly 540 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and territories, according to the State Department — by far more than any other donor nation.
Congress has balked at the price tag for COVID-19 relief and has thus far refused to take up the package because of political opposition to the impending end of pandemic-era migration restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border. Even after a consensus for virus funding briefly emerged in March, lawmakers decided to strip out the global aid funding and solely focus the assistance on shoring up U.S. supplies of vaccine booster shots and therapeutics.
Biden has warned that without Congress acting, the U.S. could lose out on access to the next generation of vaccines and treatments, and that the nation won’t have enough supply of booster doses or the antiviral drug Paxlovid for later this year. He’s also sounding the alarm that more variants will spring up if the U.S. and the world don’t do more to contain the virus globally.
The emergence of variants like delta and omicron has led many countries to switch to mRNA vaccines, which seem to provide more protection and are in greater demand globally than traditionally made vaccines like those from China and Russia.