President Joe Biden plans to urge world leaders to do more in the fight against Covid as the White House struggles to secure additional funding for U.S. efforts at home and abroad.
Biden is expected to make a request at the White House's second virtual Covid summit, where U.S. officials plan to focus on expanding vaccines and booster shots, improving access to tests and treatments, and preventing future pandemics, a senior administration official said.
The White House released a statement on Thursday morning from the U.S., which marked the grim milestone of 1 million deaths of Covid with the president urging Americans not to grow numb and to stay vigilant against the epidemic. The Biden administration is trying to get enough congressional support for more domestic and overseas funding to fight the Pandemic.
The White House requested $22 billion from Congress in March to be part of a larger spending bill, but the money was stripped out due to opposition from Republicans and some Democrats. Last month, lawmakers appeared to reach a deal on $10 billion in Covid funding that no longer included $5 billion for overseas efforts to fight the disease, but the legislation has stalled.
The senior administration official said that there was a call from the United States for Congress to act with the urgency that this virus warrants. We know that the virus is not waiting for Congress to act. Without additional funding, the White House warned that it will have to cut programs that help countries administer vaccines, leaving unvaccinated populations that could increase the risk that new variants will emerge.
Even before funding ran low, the U.S. was struggling to get hundreds of millions of already purchased shots into the arms of those who need them overseas.
The U.S. committed last year to share 1.2 billion vaccine doses with other countries. It has shipped only about half that number because of logistical issues around refrigeration capacity, a shortage of vaccine and lack of demand in some countries.
In preparation for the summit, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said that the freezers are simply full, and that they have tens of millions of unclaimed doses because countries don't have the resources to build out their cold chains, which is basically the refrigeration systems, and to hire vaccinators.
Psaki said the amount the U.S. has already shared is four times more than that of any other country.
A second senior administration official said that countries that are expected to announce $3.1 billion in additional commitments at Thursday's summit. The U.S. will be the only financial commitment that will be a pledge of $200 million to the World Bank's global health security and pandemic preparedness fund.
The White House said that more than a dozen other countries are expected to join the meeting, which will be co-hosted by Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. Two of the other major suppliers of vaccines, China and Russia, will not be participating.
More than 5.6 billion people have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, about 66 percent of the world's population. Large parts of the populations of many countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe are unvaccinated, according to figures from the Our World in Data project of the Global Change Data Lab, affiliated with the University of Oxford.
There have been 6.3 million deaths of Covid, according to the World Health Organization.