WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Joe Biden should commit $5 billion in aid to address the pandemic, numerous former heads of state and Nobel laureates urged in a letter organized by Public Citizen and the People’s Vaccine Alliance. Meanwhile, dozens of health groups have issued an action plan asking Biden to step up with a comprehensive global response in advance of Thursday’s Second Global COVID-19 Summit.
“We urge you to act with reinvigorated urgency to increase the U.S. government’s financial commitments, help set bold coverage targets for vaccination, testing, treatment and care, and announce unequivocal support for policies that will enable equitable access to the fruits of scientific progress,” notes the letter from health groups.
Commitments agreed upon during the first Global COVID-19 Summit have been broken or are not on track to be met, including the promise to vaccinate 70% of the world in time for the 2022 UN General Assembly, the letter says. Public Citizen, Partners In Health, RESULTS, Health GAP, PrEP4All, Oxfam America, and dozens of other global health groups signed on.
The letter identifies specific recommendations for action in key areas, including:
- Fully fund the fight against COVID-19 beginning with a $5 billion down payment;
- Vaccinate, test, and treat people, including by surging supplies of antigen rapid diagnostic tests;
- Share the knowledge by supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mRNA technology transfer hub and a comprehensive waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules; and
- Support the science, including accelerating development and sharing of next generation vaccines like the U.S. Army’s pan-coronavirus Walter Reed vaccine.
According to new WHO estimates, 15 million people have died directly and indirectly from COVID-19, with more than half of these deaths estimated in low- and lower-middle-income countries. And although effective COVID-19 vaccines have been available for almost 18 months, only 15% of people in low-income countries have received even their first dose. Six out of seven COVID-19 infections are undetected in Africa, and only 41 countries in the world have testing rates higher than the global target rate of 1 per 1,000 people per day.
“This is a roadmap for the administration, with partners, to help vaccinate, test, and treat people worldwide,” said Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines director for Public Citizen, regarding the letter. “For a tiny fraction of the proposed defense budget, we can help stop the pandemic here and everywhere. That’s true national security and a first step towards shrinking the tragic inequities we’ve seen in the global COVID response so far.”
Meanwhile, in a letter organized by the Trade Justice Education Fund, Oxfam, and Public Citizen, more than 170 groups urged the Biden administration to work to deliver a comprehensive waiver of WTO intellectual property rules for COVID vaccines, tests, and treatments. The letter also calls on the administration to reject recent language presented by the WTO that fails to waive IP barriers, excludes tests and treatments, and excludes some countries.
“It’s been one year since the Biden administration came out in favor of a waiver of intellectual property barriers at the WTO, but no waiver has yet been delivered at the WTO due to the EU’s intransigence and anemic support from the U.S.,” said Melinda St. Louis, Global Trade Watch director for Public Citizen. “The anniversary of Biden’s support for the waiver is an opportune moment to update the U.S. position, as effective treatments are now available but still out of reach for many worldwide.”