On Wednesday, September 22, President Biden convened a global virtual summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss plans for addressing the COVID-19 crisis. President Biden emphasized three key areas of focus: producing and administering vaccines, supporting current public health needs, and building strong infrastructure to prepare for future pandemics. Vice President Harris expanded on the importance of preparing for future pandemics in a separate address.
Here are the key actions to which they committed:
Vaccinate the world: Biden views the United States as the “arsenal” for vaccines and remains committed to making production and distribution a priority. In addition to previous U.S. vaccine donations, Biden announced an additional commitment to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the world. This brings U.S. contributions up to 1.1 billion vaccine doses, with no political strings attached. Furthermore, Biden aims to support the production of vaccines outside of the United States, specifically mentioning manufacturing in India and South Africa. These efforts toward vaccine diplomacy will aid in protecting individuals from COVID-19 and demonstrate that the United States is a trusted partner in global health.
Support current public health needs: To address the immediate effects of this pandemic, public health investments are key. Biden plans to donate oxygen, masks, COVID-19 tests, and other healthcare necessities to aid in the treatment and detection of the virus around the world.
Preventing future pandemics: COVID-19 will by no means be the last infectious disease threatening global health, but by developing stronger systems for detecting and addressing emerging diseases, the global community can prevent many of the disastrous effects that COVID-19 wrought.
To this end, Vice President Harris announced that the United States will join in the call for a new financial intermediary fund at the World Bank, as recommended by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, with the goal of providing a sustained and reliable funding mechanism for global pandemic preparedness. The United States is committed to donating $250 million to start and is requesting another $850 million from Congress. The administration seeks to encourage nations around the world to contribute, aiming for $10 billion in funding at the outset. This money will go to improving disease early warning, developing medical countermeasures, and other emergency response mechanisms. Furthermore, Harris announced U.S. support of a global health threats council to monitor progress and ensure political leaders maintain commitments to mitigating the risk of biological threats.
The addresses of President Biden and Vice President Harris both emphasized the importance of international collaboration and trust, given the borderless global nature of pandemics. They also noted the key role of private industry, including pharmaceutical companies, in addressing biological threats.
The measures proposed at the summit are an important starting point, but much more work must be done going forward in the effort to prevent and prepare for future pandemics. Keep watching for more work from our team in this area as we continue developing ideas for a strong medical countermeasures manufacturing base, on how to best leverage the U.S. bioeconomy toward these goals, and more.