As President Biden convenes his second Covid-19 summit on Thursday, the White House has secured more than $3 billion in pledges from other countries and from philanthropists to fight the coronavirus pandemic — even as Congress has approved Mr. Biden rejected for additional emergencies. aid, senior Biden officials said.
The meeting aims to revitalize the international response to the coronavirus crisis at a time when vaccination and testing rates are lagging and many countries are looking to put the pandemic behind them. Global health experts, officials and activists all said this week the world should prepare for the possibility of a new deadly variant.
“We need to break the complacency about this, to make sure people realize that if we don’t do anything, another variant is a possibility — and we don’t know how deadly it could be,” Gordon Brown, the former UK Prime Minister, said. now the World Health Organization ambassador for global health financing, said in an interview this week.
Biden has asked Congress for $22.5 billion — including $5 billion to fight the global pandemic — in emergency aid for the coronavirus, but the proposal lingers on Capitol Hill even as Congress rushes for $40 billion to approve emergency aid for Ukraine. Lawmakers are still struggling to figure out how to promote a limited $10 billion coronavirus package. A group of former heads of state, including Mr. Brown and Nobel laureates, this week called on Congress to grant Mr Biden’s request.
The Biden administration will provide a relatively small amount at the meeting: $200 million for a World Bank fund to prepare for future pandemics, and $20 million for pilot projects to bring coronavirus tests and treatments to poor countries, according to the senior officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to give a taste of the meeting.
And the United States will also make an important non-monetary commitment: The National Institutes of Health has agreed to license its “stabilized spike protein technology” — a critical part of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments — to companies through the Medicines Patent Pool. The organization is a global non-profit organization supported by the World Health Organization dedicated to bringing low-cost medicines to low- and middle-income countries.
The move is important because it could lay the groundwork for other countries and companies to share their technologies, said Peter Maybarduk, who leads the global drug access program for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.
While the United States has donated hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines to poor countries, it has been less aggressive in sharing technology.
“One of the terrible injustices and major barriers in this pandemic is exclusive control over critical medical technology,” Maybarduk said. By partnering with the Medicines Patent Pool, he said, the Biden administration would “not just share doses, but share knowledge, on the premise that sharing doses is charity and sharing knowledge is justice.”
Thursday’s meeting will take place in a very different climate from the first Covid-19 summit, last September. The war in Ukraine is sapping energy and money from donor countries. The global vaccination campaign has stalled. Testing has declined rapidly around the world. Covid antiviral pills are now available in the United States, but remain scarce in low- and middle-income countries.
“We are woefully lagging behind in our efforts to vaccinate the world, with less than 13 percent of people in low-income countries receiving two Covid injections,” said Gayle Smith, who oversees the State Department’s global Covid response. Business led under Mr. Biden and now CEO of the One Campaign, an advocacy group, said Wednesday. She added: “That the US will not come to the table tomorrow with money to bid is very worrying.”
The summit is organized by Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. Mr. Biden will address attendees in pre-recorded remarks, and Vice President Kamala Harris will serve as the lead representative for the United States. Global health organizations, philanthropists and drug manufacturers will also participate.
In preparing for the meeting, senior administration officials said, the White House asked participants to make “all kinds of important commitments.” Countries such as Canada, Korea, Spain and France would make financial commitments, she added. Some low-income countries will commit to speeding up their vaccination campaigns, and some drug makers will consider setting lower prices for treatments.