Advocacy Updates ~ March 28, 2022

March 28, 2022

Administration News

White House warns of consequences if Congress does not provide more COVID-19 funding

As the administration runs low on funding for its domestic and global response to COVID-19, it released a fact sheet outlining the consequences if more funding is not appropriated by Congress. The fact sheet warns that, without more funding, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which recently met a milestone of half a billion doses donated, and its partners will not be able to turn vaccines into vaccinations around the world. COVID-19 supplemental funding was initially included as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2022 omnibus spending package, but was removed due to congressional disagreements on how to pay for the domestic funding. Though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) noted the House would be ready to consider COVID-19 supplemental funding this week, following negotiations in the Senate, the supplemental’s uncertain future puts the Biden administration on the backfoot as it prepares to host another COVID-19 Summit in April and puts in jeopardy the President’s recommitment to contributing to global COVID-19 vaccine equity, as underscored in his March 1 State of the Union address. A group of bipartisan Senators also urged swift action on further investments for global COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Dr. Ashish Jha to replace Jeff Zients as White House COVID-19 Coordinator

On March 17, the White House announced Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, will replace Jeff Zients as White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator after leading the response for the last 14 months. 

Shalanda Young confirmed as OMB Director

On March 15, the Senate voted 61-36 to confirm Shalanda Young as the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Young was previously confirmed by the Senate in March 2021 to serve as the agency’s Deputy Director and has served as Acting Director since that time. Young is the first black woman to lead OMB.

Initial compromise reached on TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 tools

On March 15, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a statement noting that USTR joined informal discussions led by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat with South Africa, India, and the European Union (EU), to try to break the deadlock. The prolonged process has resulted in a compromise that offers the most promising path to date toward achieving a concrete outcome. While no agreement on text has been reached, the U.S. will continue to engage with WTO Members as part of the effort to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.

White House releases National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

The White House has released a National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, a roadmap to continue to address the pandemic. The plan includes four key goals, including continuing to vaccinate the world. To achieve this goal, the Biden administration pledges to work with Congress to deliver the 1.2 billion doses committed to the global response, increase efforts to get shots in arms, solve the oxygen crisis and make supplies widely available, and continue global leadership on the COVID-19 response and build better health security for the future.

White House commits new funding to CEPI

On March 7-8, the UK Government and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) co-hosted the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit, in London. At the summit the global community today came together to commit to the 100 Days Mission – the ambition to have safe and effective vaccines within 100 days of an epidemic or pandemic threat being identified – and pledged $1.535 billion to CEPI to help kick start the organization’s ambitious five-year plan. Representatives from over 20 countries joined leaders from international agencies, science and academia, industry, philanthropy, and civil society to galvanize action around pandemic preparedness, and build momentum for the fundraising effort. USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced that the U.S. government intends to provide $150 million over three years. This commitment will support key goals of the American Pandemic Preparedness plan and G7 100 Days Mission by stimulating and accelerating the development of life-saving vaccines and other countermeasures against biological threats, including COVID-19.

NIH shares COVID-19 technology with C-TAP

Earlier this month In a recent statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will offer COVID-19 technologies to the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), including innovative therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostic methods. C-TAP was launched in 2020 by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros and the President of Costa Rica with the aim to facilitate equitable access to COVID-19 health products by supporting their production and supply through non-exclusive licensing agreements provided by the Medicines Patent Pool.

Congressional News

FY22 spending package finalized, COVID-19 supplemental funding not included

On March 11, President Biden signed into law a final FY22 spending package more than five months after the start of the fiscal year. The bill included only minor increases for global health, fell far short of pressing needs, and failed to include critical COVID-19 supplemental funding. Read more in GHC’s statement. Despite an official request by the White House for supplemental COVID-19 funding, congressional disagreements on how to pay for the domestic funding led to COVID-19 supplemental funding being pulled from the omnibus package. Global health advocates continue to push Congress and the administration to pass this urgently needed supplemental funding.

Below are helpful links related to the FY22 bill:

  • The spending package text, H.R. 2471, is available here.
  • Explanatory statements are available here.
  • A full summary of the 12 appropriations bills is available here.
  • An SFOPS summary is available here and one-pager here.

Dr. John Nkengasong testifies before SFRC in confirmation hearing

On March 15, Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC and nominee to be Global AIDS Coordinator (and leader of the U.S.  President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) at his nomination hearing. SFRC has not yet advanced his nomination to the Senate floor.

House letter supports increased U.S. contribution to the Global Fund

On February 22, Members of Congress released a letter urging the Biden administration to make a robust and increased pledge for the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria’s Seventh Replenishment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reversed some of the progress made in these areas. Investments will allow the Global Fund to strengthen global health systems, which will also carry over to countries’ pandemic response and future preparedness, while also supporting economic growth at home, supporting healthier workers and expanding trade opportunities that will benefit the American people. 

PREVENT Pandemics Act advances to Senate floor

On March 15, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee voted 20-2 to advance the PREVENT Pandemics Act (S. 3799), introduced by Sens. Murray (D-WA) and Burr (R-NC), sending it to the Senate floor for consideration. The legislation included authorizing language for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), President Biden’s initiative to promote medical research. A section-by-section of the PREVENT Pandemics Act is available here. Legislative text of the PREVENT Pandemics Act is available here.

International News

First meeting to negotiate pandemic accords continues

The first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which took place on February 24, resumed on March 14-15 with non-State actors (NSA) in official relations with WHO invited to participate as observers. As an NSA, GHC welcomed the opportunity to listen to the discussion and hopes to continue to engage with the INB and provide input as Member States negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Much of the discussion at the resumed meeting centered around modalities for input from other stakeholders. The final updated documents have not yet been posted, but there will be a number of upcoming public hearings with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros. The outcome of these negotiations is critical to building a more comprehensive global health architecture that is better prepared to address emerging health threats. 

Advocacy Tools

New KFF analysis of U.S. Global COVID-19 funding by country & region

Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new analysis examining how $11.1 billion in funding that was directly appropriated to or is managed by USAID is being used, particularly by different countries and regions.