US rejoins WHO on ‘good day for global health’

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Reuters

GENEVA: The US under President Joe Biden intends to join the Covax vaccine facility that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries, his chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the announcement to the WHO executive board, saying: “This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health.”

Fauci, speaking from Washington by video conference a day after Biden was inaugurated, said: “President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the US to join Covax and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for Covid-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.”

The first batches of coronavirus vaccines are expected to go to poorer countries in February under the Covax scheme run by the WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance, WHO officials said this week, even as they raise concerns that richer countries are still grabbing the lion’s share of available shots.

The US will remain a member of the WHO and “fulfill its financial obligations”, Fauci said, adding it would also work with the other 193 member states on reforming the UN agency.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump halted funding to the WHO, where the US is the largest donor, and announced a process to withdraw from the agency in July 2021 in what was seen as part of a broader US retreat from multilateral organisations.

“WHO is a family of nations and we are all glad that the US is staying in the family,” Tedros said.