Advocacy Updates ~ March 22, 2021

Congressional News

American Rescue Plan includes emergency global health funding

On March 11, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief bill into law. The final bill includes significant funding for the U.S. global response to the pandemic. A few highlights include:

  • $3.09 billion for USAID to prevent, detect and respond to coronavirus, which includes “support for international disaster relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, for health activities, and to meet emergency food security needs”
    • $905 million for USAID global health activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including a “contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness”
  • $3.5 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
  • $750 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat COVID-19 globally 
  • $250 million for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Notable upcoming hearings and relevant recent hearings

Please see below upcoming hearings relevant to global health, as well as links to recent hearings you may have missed.

Relevant upcoming hearings

Tuesday, March 23

Recent relevant hearings

Thursday, March 18

Wednesday, March 17

Wednesday, March 10

Tuesday, March 9

McCaul, Risch send letter calling for oversight of COVID-19 funding

On March 17, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting “transparent and responsible distribution” of foreign assistance funding included in the American Rescue Plan. In their letter, they requested that the Department of State work “expeditiously” to provide Congress with a “comprehensive strategy, and accompanying spend plan” about how the $10,000,000,000 in U.S. foreign assistance funds will be spent.

Democrats call for $12 billion increase to foreign affairs budget

Sens. Murphy (D-CT) and Van Hollen (D-MD), along with Reps. Bera (D-CA7) and Cicilline (D-RI1), released a proposal calling for a $12 billion increase to the U.S. foreign affairs budget in fiscal year 2022 to compete with China, prevent the next pandemic, and fight climate change. The proposal includes major proposed increases to global health programs at State and USAID, additional investments in global health security, and funding for CEPI, multilateral organizations, humanitarian assistance, and family planning/reproductive health.  

JEC Democrats send letter to White House urging plan for COVID-19 vaccine sharing

On March 15, Democrats on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC)—Chairman-designate Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52)—sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to develop a plan to share surplus COVID-19 vaccines equitably with low- and middle-income countries through the COVAX initiative.

Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act reintroduced by Rep. Schakowsky

On March 9, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL9) reintroduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act. This legislation would expand access to abortion services globally by repealing the Helms Amendment, the policy that prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to pay for “abortion as a method of family planning.”

Administration News

Xavier Becerra confirmed as HHS Secretary 

On March 18, the Senate narrowly confirmed Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services on a vote of 50-49. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Becerra will oversee all federal health agencies, including CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

Dawn O’Connell to be nominated to lead ASPR

On March 19, President Biden stated his intent to nominate Dawn O’Connell to serve as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. ASPR is charged with protecting Americans from health security threats and leads the nation’s medical and public health preparedness. O’Connell is currently Senior Counselor to the Secretary for COVID-19 and was previously Director of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation’s (CEPI) US Office.

USAID names political appointees, global health staff

Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a release naming senior agency staff. The list includes Gideon Maltz as the agency’s Chief of Staff, Natasha Bilimoria as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health, Jeremy Konyndyk as Executive Director for COVID-19 which sits in the Office of the Administrator, and Raj Panjabi as the President’s Malaria Initiative Coordinator, among others. 

HHS names political appointees, global health staff

Recently, HHS issued a release naming senior agency staff. Notable appointments include former Global Health Council President and Executive Director Loyce Pace to lead the Office of Global Affairs and Cindy Huang to lead the Office of Refugee Resettlement. We look forward to working closely with Loyce in her new capacity as we pursue our collective vision of sustainable funding and equitable policies to improve global health and wellness for all.

Quad Summit leaders commit to expand COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing

On March 12, at its first-ever meeting of top leaders, “Quad” partners—the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia—launched a landmark partnership aimed at bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. The Quad leaders vowed to expand COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in 2021 and work together to strengthen vaccination in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Linda Thomas-Greenfield confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

On February 23, the Senate voted to confirm Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US Ambassador to the United Nations. From 2013-17 she served as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department, and before that, she served as the US Ambassador to Liberia from 2008-12.

International News

Human Rights Council adopts 2020 Universal Periodic Review of the U.S.

On March 17, 2021 the Human Rights Council adopted the third report of the U.S. under the Universal Periodic Review, which provides a forum to discuss human rights around the world. The U.S. government received a total of 347 recommendations and accepted 280 recommendations in whole or in part. Notably, the U.S. supported recommendations related to advancing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights.

WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund marks first anniversary with calls for additional funding

March 15, 2021 marked the one year anniversary of the creation of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, created to enable private companies, individuals and other organizations to contribute directly to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s COVID-19 response efforts. To date, the fund has garnered nearly $250 million from more than 661,000 donors. WHO needs an additional $1.96 billion in 2021 to continue coordinating the global pandemic response. More than 60% of this ask will go toward access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

World Bank and partners release report assessing country readiness for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

On March 11, the World Bank, together with Unicef, Gavi, Global Fund, and WHO, released a report regarding the ability of low- and middle-income countries to roll out COVID-19 vaccines. Based on their readiness assessments in more than 100 countries, the World Bank and its partners found varying degrees of readiness among countries for this massive undertaking. High-level report findings can be found here.

CEPI unveils ambitious five-year plan

On March 10, CEPI unveiled an ambitious five-year, $3.5 billion plan to tackle the risk of future pandemics and epidemics. As part of the plan, CEPI announced a “moonshot” objective to cut vaccine development timelines to 100 days. This is approximately one-third of the time it took the world to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

World Bank opens registration for Spring meetings 

From April 5-11, the World Bank will hold its 2021 Spring Meetings virtually. Registration is now open for all categories. Please note CSO registration will close today, March 22. As in previous years, the World Bank Group and IMF will host a Civil Society Policy Forum from March 22 to April 11, 2021. The forum provides an opportunity for CSOs to share their perspectives with Bank and Fund staff, as well as other CSOs and stakeholders.

COVAX vaccine rollout begins

The COVAX Facility recently began shipping COVID-19 vaccine doses to participating countries, marking the beginning of its global rollout. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were the first to receive and among the first to administer doses on the African continent. Both countries received the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. More information on the first round of COVAX allocations can be found here.

Other

Global Health Council is collecting information about what specific issues member organizations are tracking as it relates to vaccine equity, access, distribution, etc. We hope to collect as much information as possible in order to build a comprehensive picture of where concerns and gaps exist at present and how the global health community would like to see these issues addressed and resolved. Please feel free to send any comments or feedback to advocacy@globalhealth.org.

Leave a Comment