Advocacy Updates ~ August 10, 2021
U.S. has donated and shipped more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccines
On August 3, President Biden announced that the U.S. has now donated and shipped upwards of 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 60 countries in its efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of August, the U.S. will begin shipping 500 million Pfizer/BioNTech doses it pledged to purchase and donate to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The Biden administration’s global response to COVID-19 is guided by the U.S. COVID-19 Global Response and Recovery Framework. For a list detailing the number and locations to which the U.S. has shipped COVID-19 vaccine doses, scroll down to the bottom of this statement. During his remarks on progress towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on August 3, President Biden was expected to announce a U.S.-hosted summit at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) focused on COVID-19 and preparing for future pandemics following an article published by Axios, however no such announcement was made. GHC is working with its members and the global health community to ensure civil society is consulted during the summit planning process.
Disease X Act introduced to protect against unknown threats
On August 5, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Disease X Act at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing. The Disease X Act would establish a program at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to enable the U.S. to rapidly develop medical countermeasures for future infectious disease outbreaks. The Disease X Act would provide $2 billion to BARDA over four years to establish a Disease X Medical Countermeasures Program, beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2022, to help better prepare against unknown threats.
House passes FY22 State, Foreign Operations and Health and Human Services appropriations bills
On July 28, the House passed its State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bill as a standalone on a party line vote of 217-212. This bill provides $62.24 billion for the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other development agencies and programs for FY22. This represents an increase of $6.737 billion above FY21 enacted levels, and does not include emergency COVID-19 supplemental funding. This bill provides a $1.45 billion increase for Global Health Programs over the FY21 enacted level.
On July 29, the House passed the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill with a 219-208 vote along party lines as part of a seven-bill package. The bill includes increases for both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over FY21 enacted levels. CDC funding is increased by $2.7 billion over FY21 enacted levels at an historic $10.5 billion, which includes a $250 million increase for global health activities. NIH funding is increased by $6.5 billion over FY21 enacted levels.
The House passed nine of the 12 spending bills before August recess. Senate appropriators advanced the first three appropriations bills last week but it’s unclear when they would get a floor vote as the Senate prepares to join their House colleagues for August recess.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes global health security legislation
On July 28, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) passed on voice vote S. 2297, the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act (IPPCRA). As a reminder, IPPCRA was introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), SFRC Chairman, and Sen. James Risch (R-ID), SFRC Ranking Member, to accelerate and enhance the U.S. international response to pandemics and to effectively operationalize lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. GHC provided feedback to committee staff on the initial bill text for the Manager’s Amendment, which passed with broad bipartisan support, including an increase in funding from $3 billion over five years to $5 billion over five years with language clarifying that this funding level applies to delineated global health security activities and for contributions to a new financing mechanism. GHC’s Global Health Security Roundtable is tracking this legislation closely, as well as its companion bill that passed in the House. If you are a GHC member interested in engaging more on our global health security work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 introduced
On July 26, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Reps. Young Kim (R-CA) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) introduced the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021. This bill authorizes USAID to combat malnutrition and improves U.S. government coordination on such programs, along with requiring robust monitoring of the interventions.
House Foreign Affairs Committee holds hearing on Global Child Thrive Act
On July 27, the House Foreign AffairsCommittee held a hearing on the Global Child Thrive Act. This legislation was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act and directs USAID to prioritize early child development programs in LMICs. Key takeaways from the hearing included strong calls for a swift formal appointment by the Biden administration of a permanent special advisor for orphans and vulnerable children, as well as emphasis on funding allocation to research in addition to direct services to improve cost effectiveness.
IMF approves historic SDR allocation
On August 2, International Monetary Fund (IMF) governors approved an historic $650 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation to boost global liquidity. The general allocation will become effective on August 23 and will be credited to IMF member countries in proportion to their existing quotas in the Fund. Approximately $275 billion will go to emerging markets and developing countries. The IMF stressed that “one key option is for members that have strong external positions to voluntarily channel part of their SDRs to scale up lending for low-income countries through the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT).” This is in addition to other efforts by the IMF to explore better options to help poorer and more vulnerable countries in their recovery.
UNGA Plenary Session on the findings and recommendations of the IPPPR
On July 28, the United Nations hosted an informal briefing of the findings and recommendations of the Independent Panel for Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), established to evaluate the global COVID-19 response. IPPPR co-chairs, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, reviewed the panel’s recommendations, including establishing a Global Health Threats Council, strengthening WHO, and adopting an international pandemic treaty to guide future pandemic responses. The co-chairs also called for one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to be donated to LMICs by September with another one billion donated by mid-next year. On behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros, WHO Health Emergencies Executive Director Dr. Mike Ryan provided the session’s opening remarks emphasizing strengthening and sharing to bolster global health security. Few Member States participated in the session and even fewer supported a proposed UNGA special session on COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness.
New financing mechanism to accelerate COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries
COVAX and the World Bank plan to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines in LMICs through a new financing mechanism, building upon Gavi’s new Advance Market Commitment (AMC) cost-sharing arrangement, which allows AMC countries to purchase doses beyond the doses already provided from COVAX through donor subsidies. COVAX will now be able to make advance vaccine purchases based on aggregate demand globally, financed by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks. The World Bank states that “participating developing countries will have greater visibility of available vaccines, quantities available, and future delivery schedules, enabling them to secure doses earlier, and prepare and implement vaccination plans more effectively.”
Working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies holds its first meeting
On July 15-16, the first meeting of the Member State Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies took place virtually. This working group was established through World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution 74.7 to consider the findings and recommendations of the IPPPR, the International Health Regulations Review Committee, and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Program, and requires that the working group submit a report with proposed actions for the WHO Secretariat, Member States, and Non-State Actors for consideration at the 75th WHA. For more information on the first meeting agenda and proposed method of work, please visit this link. The U.S. is co-leading this working group and is holding a listening session on August 18 from 10:00am-11:30am EST to receive civil society input. If you’re interested in attending this session, send your full name, email address, and organization to OGA.RSVP@hhs.gov to register. Please RSVP no later than Monday, August 15, 2021.
WHO establishes new advisory group to investigate the origins of novel pathogens
In his opening remarks at the recent WHO Member State Information Session on Origins, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros announced plans for a new advisory group to investigate novel pathogenic organisms, known as the Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). Dr. Tedros noted that SAGO will be critical in the next phase of the investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2.
Multilateral task force publishes COVID-19 vaccine supply tracker
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and WHO have jointly published a comprehensive public database to track the number of vaccine doses procured by countries through bilateral and multilateral agreements and dose donations. This database has been made available following the first meeting of the Multilateral Leaders Taskforce (MLT) for Scaling COVID-19 Tools, which includes the heads of IMF, WHO, the World Bank, and World Trade Organization. The group aims to vaccinate 40% of people in every country by the end of 2021 and 60% by mid-2022. The task force will also track, coordinate, and advance delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.