After months of partisan gridlock, the congressional leaders of the United States agreed on a COVID-19 relief package Sunday night, releasing the text of a $900 billion bill to support the country’s economy during the ongoing pandemic.
The bipartisan package includes a second round of stimulus checks, funds for small businesses, rental assistance, and additional measures. It also includes a significant contribution to an international organization — Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
By investing $4 billion in Gavi, a global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunization in the world's poorest countries, the US congressional leaders are acknowledging that Americans cannot truly be safe from the virus until the whole world is safe.
“Tonight’s deal to include $4 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a critical step in the right direction for our global response that will save lives and directly impact America’s health and economic recovery,” Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), said in a statement on Sunday.
"We are grateful Congress prioritized Gavi and the importance of global vaccine distribution. But as long as the virus is spreading anywhere in the world, Americans are not safe, and that means our current global response is simply not enough," she added.
Schrayer said that when the 117th Congress convenes in 2021, USGLC — a US-based coalition made up of more than 500 businesses and organizations, including Global Citizen — will work with lawmakers to "ensure a robust international response in order to strengthen and protect our nation’s recovery."
Gavi, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched the COVAX Facility to promote equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.
The plan is to secure at least 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 and ensure equal access for 92 low- and middle-income countries that cannot afford to pay for supplies on their own due to vast structural inequalities.
COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and therapeutics to everyone, everywhere. Through the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign with the European Commission, Global Citizens helped mobilize nearly $7 billion for the ACT-Accelerator. They also took 239,000 actions to advocate for Gavi and its efforts to reach those who live in poverty.
The leading financial supporters of COVAX so far have been the European Union, United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Despite its history as a global leader, the US has notably been missing from the list of COVAX donors. But with this newly committed $4 billion to Gavi, the country reaffirms its position as a supporter of a global response against the pandemic.
Deal includes $4B for @gavi! Critically important to have #globalresponse to #globalpandemic. Right first step but more is needed given connections of what happens around the 🌎 to our economic and health security. Statement coming.— Liz Schrayer (@LizSchrayer) December 21, 2020
“Hundreds of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have spoken out in recent months that failing to invest in a global response comes at our own peril,” Schrayer said.
“They recognize that as the global pandemic rages on, the growing global instability is impacting our top trading partners, boosting terrorist activity in Africa, and driving massive increases in disease, hunger, and poverty around the world,” she added.
When dealing with a disease that knows no borders, it benefits the health and prosperity of each nation to help eradicate the virus globally. So instead of stockpiling vaccines for their own citizens, wealthier nations would be doing themselves a favor by guaranteeing vaccine access to those who cannot afford it, experts say.
Gavi will play a crucial role in getting the COVID-19 vaccine to the poorest corners of the globe in the coming year. Founded in 2000, the alliance has been dedicated to the mission of broadening vaccine access for the past two decades, vaccinating 822 million children throughout its time in operation.
On Dec. 18, Gavi announced a recent round of additional pledges that now allows it to access nearly 2 billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine with a rollout starting in early 2021. This news came a couple of days after Reuters reported that the global plan to deliver vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure due to a lack of funds and supply shortages.
Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems.
But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.