Advocacy Updates ~ June 15, 2021

Administration News

President Biden nominates new ambassadorships with more announcements expected soon ?

President Biden has nominated Paloma Adams-Allen, former president and executive director of the Inter-American Foundation, for Deputy Administrator for Management and Resources, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He also nominated Isobel Coleman for Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming at USAID. President Biden is poised to announce several ambassador nominees in the coming days, although they have yet to be confirmed by the White House.

Biden administration releases strategy for global vaccine distribution and subsequent vaccine dose sharing announcements

On June 3, President Biden unveiled a U.S. strategy for global vaccine distribution beyond its “robust” funding for COVAX. The strategy includes: donating excess vaccines and encouraging other countries to do the same; working with U.S. vaccine manufacturers to increase global vaccine supply; and helping countries to increase their own vaccine production capacity, including through support for supply chains. President Biden also announced a framework for sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses globally by the end of June, including specific plans for the first 25 million to be allocated. The administration will share 75% of the doses through COVAX and the other 25% will go to countries with an immediate need to help with COVID-19 surges. Of the initial 25 million vaccine doses shared by the U.S. 19 million will be allocated through COVAX and 6 million will be distributed to regional partner priorities.

Following his announcement the previous week, on June 10, President Biden announced that the U. S. will purchase and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to the 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and economies as defined by Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and the African Union. The vaccine doses are set to start shipping in August, allocated through COVAX, with the aim of delivering 200 million doses by the end of this year and the remaining 300 million doses in the first half of 2022. This is the largest donation of COVID-19 vaccine doses by any nation.

U.S. DFC announces partnership to support vaccine manufacturing in Africa

On May 28, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Proparco, and the German Development Finance Institution (DEG) announced a new partnership “to strengthen Africa’s vaccine and pharmaceutical development and to accelerate the continent’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” As of April, Africa has received less than two percent of global COVID-19 vaccine doses and only one percent of Africa’s vaccination needs are being produced within the continent. Partners are exploring options for local vaccine production, with the dual goal of responding to the current pandemic and building a robust infrastructure to respond to future international crises. By combining forces, members hope to accelerate health systems strengthening through production capacity, technical skills training, and knowledge sharing. 

HHS launches venture capital partnership to develop health technologies

On June 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a public-private partnership to combat future health security threats. Through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the BARDA Ventures program will partner with the nonprofit organization Global Health Investment Corporation (GHIC) to invest in groundbreaking technologies to respond to or prevent public health emergencies. Through this partnership, BARDA will provide GHIC with $50 million over five years with potential for up to $500 million over 10 years to invest in companies developing breakthrough health technologies that strengthen health security and generate financial returns, which will be reinvested by GHIC and go towards sustaining BARDA Ventures. The Ventures partnership between BARDA and GHIC will be supported through BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe), which has a pre-existing accelerator network around the country to facilitate rapid health security product development. 

Congressional News

Bicameral legislation to establish pandemic preparedness program and help vaccinate LMICs introduced

On June 8, Rep. Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Sen. Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Warren (D-MA), and Rep. Jayapal (D-WA) introduced bicameral legislation known as the Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act, aimed at helping the 92 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) eligible to receive vaccines through COVAX vaccinate 60 percent of their populations against COVID-19 within one year. To accomplish this goal, the NOVID Act would establish a Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP), modeled after the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to help coordinate U.S. investments in procuring, producing, and distributing COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and reduce the threat of emerging variants.

Senate passes United States Innovation and Competition Act

On June 8, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act on a bipartisan 68-to-32 vote. The bill “commissions a new study about the origin of the coronavirus” and also states that it shall be the policy of the U.S. “to improve the local capacity of the countries of Oceania to address public health challenges and improve global health security.” The White House released a statement applauding the passage of the bill.

Hearings

House Appropriations Committee: Department of State and Related Programs FY22 Budget Request

On June 7, the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to review the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request. While there was broad support on both sides of the aisle for international COVID-19 vaccination efforts and future global health security investments, committee members diverged on other aspects. Funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations represented a point of contention, with Chairwoman Lee (D-CA) voicing a “commitment to restore America’s standing in the world through funding for WHO and other multilateral partnerships” in her opening remarks with stark opposition from Ranking Member Rogers (R-KY) disagreeing on increased funding without a focus on burden-sharing. 

Senate Appropriations Committee: A Review of the FY22 State Department Budget Request

On June 8, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to review the FY22 budget request. The Senate Appropriations Committee focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the role it will have on America’s standing in the world. Sen. Graham (R-SC) stressed the need to have a strategy in the event that China fails to cooperate with the current COVID-19 origins investigation. Sen. Kennedy (R-LA) shared an impassioned speech in support of vaccination efforts worldwide, stating that, “Our single most important priority is going to be to vaccinate the world… Let’s show the world what American leadership is all about.” 

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact: COVID response 

On June 9, the House of Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact held a hearing with Gayle Smith, Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security at the Department of State, and Jeremy Konyndyk, Executive Director of the COVID-19 Task Force at U.S. Agency for International Development, on the international COVID-19 response. Chairman Castro (D-TX) stressed that, in the wake of the pandemic, it is important to build sustainable future infrastructure in addition to ending the current pandemic if we want to truly “build back better.” Gayle Smith noted that global health security response is the long game that will help prevent a repeat of COVID-19. Jeremy Konyndyk made clear that we must address the primary and secondary effects of the pandemic with comprehensive policy and reliable funding. 

International News

G7 leaders commit to sharing one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses

On June 11-13, G7 leadersfrom Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.met in Cornwall for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. G7 leaders released a communique, which includes a commitment to provide the world with one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses over the next year. To strengthen global health security and prepare for future pandemics, the leaders also committed to: increase global manufacturing capacity; improving early warning systems; and shorten the timeline to develop safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and tests from 300 to 100 days. The communique also calls for a WHO-led, second phase study of the origins of the novel coronavirus. More information on G7 commitments on health can be found in the health declaration.

In the week preceding the G7 Ministerial, on June 3-4, Health Ministers met to discuss global health security, antimicrobial resistance, digital health, and clinical trials for the development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The Health Ministers committed to strategic actions in those four areas in a communique, including a more coordinated approach to global health security surveillance and a commitment to share COVID-19 doses through COVAX. On June 2, the U.K. government convened the first Global Vaccine Confidence Summit to look at innovative solutions to tackling COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation. 

UN hosts High-Level meeting on HIV/AIDS; UNAIDS releases new progress report

On June 8-10, the United Nations hosted the fifth High-Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV/AIDS to review progress made on reducing the global impact of HIV/AIDS since the last HLM in 2016. At the meeting, the General Assembly adopted a new political declaration, without consensus, to guide the future direction of the international response. Leading up to the HLM, UNAIDS released a new report showing that dozens of countries achieved or exceeded the 2020 targets set at the last HLM. 

74th World Health Assembly concludes

The 74th World Health Assembly concluded on Monday, May 31, one day ahead of schedule. GHC’s delegation included 100+ delegates from 11 countries, including 7 low- and middle-income countries, representing 40+ organizations and super advocates. The GHC delegation submitted and presented nine statements: 

  • Constituency Statement on Agenda Items 17 & 18: COVID-19 and WHO’s role in health emergencies
  • Agenda Items 13.1, 13.5, & 13.8: Global action on patient safety, Antimicrobial resistance, and Immunization Agenda 2030
  • Agenda Items 14, 15, & 16: Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and health workforce, and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health
  • Agenda Items 26.2 & 26.3: WHO Transformation and WHO Reform, including engagement with non-state actors
  • Agenda Items: 13.4, 13.6, & 13.7: Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation, and intellectual property; substandard and falsified medical products; and standardization of medical devices nomenclature
  • Agenda Items 19, 20, 21: The public health implications of implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, enhancement of laboratory biosafety, and poliomyelitis
  • Agenda Items 22.1 & 23: Social determinants of health and WHO global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children
  • Agenda Items 13.2, 13.3, 13.9: Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases; Expanding access to effective treatments for cancer and rare and orphan diseases; and integrated people-centered eye care
  • Agenda Item 34.1: Progress reports on Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities and Sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage

For more information on WHA74, here is GHC’s high-level recap blog.

Gavi and Japan co-host COVAX AMC Summit, leaders commit to equitable vaccine access

On June 2, the government of Japan and Gavi hosted the “One World Protected” Gavi COVAX AMC Summit. Going into the summit, the COVAX AMC had an existing funding gap of $2 billion, needed to meet its goal to secure approximately 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for AMC eligible countries in 2021. During the summit, government funders, philanthropic foundations, and the private sector committed $2.4 billion, exceeding the funding target and bringing the total pledge to the COVAX AMC to $9.6 billion. 

$50 billion roadmap to end the COVID-19 pandemic and drive global recovery

On the heels of the World Health Assembly and in run-up to the G7 Leaders’ Summit, the leaders of WHO, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and World Trade Organization published a statement calling for a $50 billion investment to accelerate the equitable distribution of health tools to end the pandemic. The leaders say this investment, based on a recent IMF analysis, would generate $9 billion in economic output by 2025 and boost the manufacturing, supply, trade, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 health tools. The majority of the funding would be made available quickly through grants. 

EU pushes back on waiving patents for COVID-19 vaccines at WTO

Following U.S. support to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines during negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Union released a counter proposal noting that it is not convinced the initial proposal put forth by India and South Africa, which calls for waiving aspects of WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-related patents during the pandemic, would immediately and urgently deliver the world with the COVID-19 vaccines that it needs. The EU proposal calls for vaccines, treatments, and raw materials to cross borders freely; encourages vaccine producers to expand production and ensure countries purchase them at an affordable price; and calls on governments to facilitate compulsory licensing within WTO’s TRIPS agreement. 

Mastercard Foundation to deploy $1.3 billion over three years to Africa CDC for COVID-19 response

On June 8, the Mastercard Foundation announced it will deploy $1.3 billion over three years, in partnership with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to acquire COVID-19 vaccines for 50 million people, support vaccine delivery across the continent, lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa, and strengthen the Africa CDC. The African Union aims to vaccinate 60 percent of its population by the end of 2022 but, to date, less than two percent of Africans have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

GPEI launches new polio eradication strategy

On June 10, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) launched a new strategy for 2022-2026 to overcome the remaining challenges in ending polio, especially in light of COVID-19. Last year, door-to-door GPEI campaigns were paused to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and GPEI contributed 30,000 staff and over $100 million to the pandemic response. Polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and in 2019, 1,226 cases of all forms of polio were recorded compared to 138 in 2018.

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