Jan 19, 2021 - World

Biden will bring U.S. into COVAX vaccine initiative, Blinken says

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken announced in a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that President-elect Biden would bring the U.S. into the COVAX initiative — the global effort from the World Health Organization and other groups to ensure that every country has access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Why it matters: Virtually the entire world has signed onto COVAX, apart from the U.S. and Russia. It's expected to be the only source of vaccines for some of the world's poorest countries, and it needs additional funding to fulfill its goal of vaccinating at least 20% of the population in every country by the end of 2021.

  • COVAX is designed such that high- and middle-income countries put forward funding to develop and distribute vaccines, effectively subsidizing access for low-income countries in the process.
  • The U.S. would likely play the role of funder, rather than recipient, given the hundreds of millions of doses the country has already purchased directly.
  • What to watch: Canada is developing a mechanism that would allow countries that purchased more doses than they ultimately need to donate them through COVAX.

What he's saying: "We believe strongly that we can do that — ensure that every American gets the vaccine, but also help make sure that others around the world who want it have access to it," Blinken said of joining COVAX.

The other side: The Trump administration declined to join, citing China's influence over the WHO.

  • Blinken said that while the WHO was "in need of reform," the U.S. was better off having a seat at the table.

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