$2.5 billion plan to prevent Omicron-like variants stalled inside Biden administration

Over the past year, public health experts have warned that leaving more people around the world unvaccinated would be a recipe for incubating dangerous variants that could evade vaccines and prolong the war. against COVID-19. It’s too early to say whether omicron is a variant that has escaped virologists’ nightmares, but its sudden appearance has focused attention on a global vaccination effort that is under threat. delay.

Activists and even some federal health officials have criticized President Biden for slow-moving global vaccine donations, micro-distribution efforts through a small White House team (as first reported in Vanity Fair), and does not force vaccine manufacturers to share their technology with the developing world. But Biden has accepted the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the world by September, and the US leads the world in its commitment to sponsor 1.2 billion doses, of which 275 million have been administered. transport.

However, this summer, an amazing practice began to spread among federal health agencies. Several low- and middle-income countries, lacking robust public health systems, have had difficulty absorbing and administering donated vaccines – a failure of what experts say. called “vaccination readiness”.

To address this issue, in September, the National Security Council asked the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to prepare a detailed strategy to increase immunization readiness globally. . draft of the plan, Vanity Fair achieved, designed by contractors from the Boston Consulting Group, and began circulating in federal health agencies in October. It proposes to cover operating costs in recipient countries, strengthen data systems, secure cold chains, and deploy rapid response teams to identify bottlenecks. In short, it speaks to the need for a launch effort similar to what has been requested in the United States. “Acceptance challenges in place will become the most important constraint within a few months,” the plan states, adding, “We are seeing immediate challenges in developing countries.” receive Pfizer and other bilateral grants.”

Describing obstacles to universal immunization, the plan cites “weak leadership, coordination, planning and accountability in [a] Globally.” It also distinguishes between countries with low, medium, and high assistance needs, and it identified 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Haiti and Chad, as underfunded countries. accounts for 90% of the global financial gap.

The plan estimates that the US government will need to invest $2.5 billion, as part of a larger, $10 billion global effort to fully or partially immunize nearly 3 billion more people. It states that “significantly increased support is needed to achieve the 70% target by 2022.” But with agency funds dwindling, the money will likely need to be allocated by Congress, which has already been consumed by debates over Biden’s domestic agenda.

“Global COVID Vaccination” [plan] does exist, but it hasn’t been released,” a federal health official said. “Our entire strategy is on hold” because the Biden administration has yet to ask Congress for funding, the official said. “They want to pass the infrastructure bill. You are seeing the politics of the narrow margin in the Senate going very poorly. “

A government official told Vanity Fair The vaccination plan is a working document and is “forecast. You should not interpret it as a final decision or a statement of management policy”.

On Thursday morning, the White House issued a long list of new actions it will take to protect against the omicron variation. Most are related to domestic policy, but one refers to the ongoing need to “turn vaccines into vaccinations”. Although a White House spokesman declined to say whether the Biden administration would require new funding to pursue this goal, another spokesman said. Vanity Fair, “It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity. That is the only way to defeat this global pandemic.”

How and where the omicron originated is still unknown. It was first detected in Botswana on 11 November. South Africa, which has the most sophisticated sequencing capabilities on the continent, as well as an abundance of vaccines but low vaccination rates, has warned. world for an alarming set of mutations of the variant on 24 November.

Without active investment in vaccination readiness, experts say the world will likely remain a chessboard of struggling public health systems and underserved populations. — fertile ground for more omicron-like varieties to flourish. “We have been sounding the alarm all year that this is not charity,” says Rachel Hall, executive director of US government advocacy at the global humanitarian organization CARE. “It is in the best interest of the United States and globally to carry out a swift, swift, fair, and equal vaccination campaign around the world. The more time we have for this virus to mutate, the worse people will get. “

Asked on Tuesday at a White House COVID-19 press conference if he thought the United States was doing enough to help inoculate the world, Dr. Anthony Faucice replied, “From full is a very, very unusual word because it’s really… compared to what? Are we doing a lot? We are doing a lot.” But he admits that “one of the frustrating aspects of this is that the logistical ability to get vaccines into the hands of people in South African countries and in other low- and middle-income countries is really, really hard.” difficult”.

In federal health agencies, it has been clear for months that it is not enough to drop vaccine crates on airport runways. Many countries lack the infrastructure, staff, and funding to administer vaccines.

CARE has been studying actual “runway to border” costs in many countries. In South Sudan, for example, they found that each vaccinated person costs $22 more — six times more expensive than current global estimates, it noted in a July study.

In September, at the US-convened global COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Biden pledged an additional $370 million to improve immunization readiness abroad. But that’s only a fraction of what federal health agencies estimate is actually needed and what has been allocated for other global health needs.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/12/plan-to-thwart-omicron-like-variants-stalled-inside-biden-administration $2.5 billion plan to prevent Omicron-like variants stalled inside Biden administration


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