Advocacy Updates ~ June 28, 2021

June 28, 2021

Administration News

Leaders commit to equitable COVID-19 tools access, WHO reform and announce manufacturing and supply chain task force at U.S.-E.U. Summit

U.S. and European leaders met on June 15 to renew their Transatlantic partnership, set an agenda for the post-pandemic era, and commit to regular dialogues to review progress. Their statement included many global health-related commitments, including the promotion of equitable, affordable vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). The statement also reinforced cooperation to reform the World Health Organization (WHO) and announced the establishment of a Joint U.S.-EU COVID Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce to resolve issues around the production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Biden administration announces allocation plan for 55 million COVID-19 doses to be shared globally

Earlier this month, President Biden announced a framework for sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses globally, including specific allocation plans for the first 25 million doses. The administration will share 75% of these doses through COVAX and the other 25% will go to countries with an immediate need to help with COVID-19 surges. On June 21, President Biden announced the allocation plan for the remaining 55 million doses. Approximately 41 million will be shared through COVAX with 10 million going to Africa, 16 million for Asia, and 14 million for Latin America and the Caribbean. The remaining 14 million will be shared with regional priorities and other recipients. All 80 million doses were originally intended to be shared by the end of June. However, during a White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted the logistical hurdles associated with sharing these doses in response to a question that the administration would not meet their stated dose sharing timeline. Psaki noted the urgency of sharing these doses as quickly as possible and committed to continuing to announce when these doses land in-country.

Congressional News

Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduces global health security legislation

On June 28, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), and Sen. James Risch (R-ID), Ranking Member of SFRC, introduced S. 2297, the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act to accelerate and enhance the U.S. international response to pandemics and to effectively operationalize lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill includes three provisions focused on the U.S. international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing and preparing for future global health threats, and establishing a multilateral financing mechanism for global health security and pandemic preparedness and prevention. GHC is encouraged by the introduction of this bipartisan legislation. Read our full statement.

House passes Global Health Security Act

On Monday, June 28, the House of Representatives passed the Global Health Security Act, introduced by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), which seeks to enhance U.S. pandemic preparedness and response by addressing U.S. global health security staffing/activities reliant on an executive order, and not specifically supported in law, and the need for a permanent, designated official responsible for coordinating the interagency response to a global health security emergency. Notably, the 2021 version of the bill has been strengthened to include a multilateral financing mechanism for global health security and pandemic preparedness and prevention, among other provisions. This legislation has been endorsed by Global Health Council and many Global Health Security Roundtable member organizations, and previously passed the House in September 2020. For more information, please see the press release from Rep. Connolly.

Bipartisan global mental health legislation introduced in Congress

On June 17, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation to improve global mental health outcomes. The Mental Health in International Development and Humanitarian Settings (MINDS) Act is an attempt to provide structure to the role of the U.S. Agency for International Development Coordinator for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and to guide foreign policy efforts with the establishment of an MHPSS working group. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) are collaborating on companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Rep. Deutch stated, “The mental health needs around the world have never been greater—particularly for those who were already facing significant adversity before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

UNFPA Funding Act reintroduced in the House

On June 16, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) reintroduced the Support UNFPA Funding Act, co-led by Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA). The bill would restore U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and authorize annual contributions for the purposes of ending preventable maternal deaths; ending the unmet need for contraceptives and promote a human rights-based approach to family planning; ending gender-based violence; ending harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation; and complementing U.S. national security and humanitarian efforts. Global Health Council was among 126 co-sponsors and 98 supportive groups of the legislation.

HFAC hearing on Biden administration engagement with the United Nations

On June 16, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) held a hearing on The Biden Administration’s Priorities for Engagement with the United Nations, featuring U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. In Chairman Meeks’ (D-NY) opening remarks, he stated the U.S. must work closely with WHO on reform to prevent future pandemics and emphasized active engagement at the United Nations Security Council to address humanitarian crises. Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) was one of many to raise concerns about the COVID-19 origins investigation but was reassured by Amb. Thomas-Greenfield that it is in everyone’s best interest, including China, to identify the origins of the virus. Amb. Thomas-Greenfield also reiterated the competency of those assigned to the investigation. Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) stressed that the 580 million vaccine doses donated by the U.S. are a start but nowhere near enough in the pursuit of global vaccination, a sentiment echoed throughout the hearing. Rep. Levin was given assurances by Amb. Thomas-Greenfield that the U.S. is working with other nations to improve the distribution of and increased sharing of COVID-19 vaccines. Amb. Thomas-Greenfield stated her intention to be a strong presence at the United Nations and to work as a voice for change, stating, “If you take anything away from my message today, it should be that the United Nations—and the world—needs U.S. leadership.”

International News

WHO holds a high-level event on primary health care 

On June 22, WHO hosted a high-level event about the role of primary health care (PHC) in COVID-19 pandemic response and equitable recovery. Among other aims, the event focused on reaffirming political commitment to PHC during and following the COVID-19 pandemic and improving communications to facilitate the inclusion of PHC in the United Nations General Assembly 2022 Agenda. The moderator, Alexey Tsoy, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, stressed the importance of centralizing a resilient and comprehensive public health program in pandemic response and promoting equity on global and national levels. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros stated that PHC is the foundation of universal health coverage, which addresses a range of issues from daily services to emergency response.

World Bank and African Union partner to support rapid vaccination of 400 million people

On June 21, the African Finance Ministers and World Bank Group met to speed up vaccine acquisition, with the goal of vaccinating 60% of the continent’s population by 2022. The World Bank and the African Union announced a partnership to support the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative to help allow countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million people across Africa. This regional effort will complement the COVAX initiative.

WHO, South Africa to establish first vaccine tech transfer hub

The WHO and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium, including the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to establish the first African COVID mRNA technology transfer hub. As a training facility aimed at building capacity for local manufacturers from less-wealthy countries, this landmark initiative is a concrete step towards closing the vaccine equity gap while building vital infrastructure for sustainable health security in the region. On June 21-25, WHO hosted the World Local Production Forum to raise the visibility of the opportunities and challenges associated with the local production of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and other health products.

WHO releases call to action to scale up TB prevention

On June 15, WHO convened a high-level event to galvanize commitment and action to accelerate the global drive to scale up tuberculosis (TB) prevention. During the event, Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, presented the Call to Action 2.0: A global drive to scale up TB prevention outlining steps to overcome barriers to the scale-up of TB prevention. With only 18 months left to meet the goal of at least 30 million people on preventive TB treatment, as committed to at the High-Level Meeting in 2018, there is great urgency for action. To support this call to action, please find more information using the advocacy and communications toolkit.