COVAX is a joint venture of the World Health Organization, the Center for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, the Vaccine Alliance and UNICEF. The idea of COVAX is to ensure global equitable access to vaccines by pre-purchasing huge quantities of COVID vaccine, and passing quantity pricing along to the countries of the world that can afford to pay while giving 92 of the poorest countries of the world vaccine for free.

The main promise of COVAX is that at least 20% of everyone in the world would be vaccinated by the end of 2021. That target was created in the hopes of having health care workers and the most vulnerable people vaccinated. As we know, this is far less than needed to stop transmission.

COVAX is struggling and officials say it may not meet its modest target. “You can’t distribute vaccines that you don’t have,” says Peter Singer, the assistant director-general of the WHO, summing up COVAX’s main dilemma now.

COVAX is mostly funded by the wealthier western nations and some private investment.  Although more than $6 billion was pledged, not all the funding has been received. In April, the initiative wrote that it had not yet received its target of $3.2 billion for 2021. So far, the Biden administration has pledged $4 billion.

As the world waits for vaccines, hundreds of thousands more people will die, the global economy will shrink by trillions of dollars (according to the International Chamber of Commerce), and tens of millions of people will be forced into extreme poverty. Global hunger will rise, life expectancy will fall, and instability will prevail. This does not bode well and will have profound consequences for all nations. Unless COVID is controlled and eventually stopped, no one is safe. The world is not safe. We simply cannot afford to allow such misery and uncertainty to prevail.

What needs to be done? Western Countries need to step up with more money, low- and middle-income countries must be allowed to manufacture their own doses, supply chain and delivery obstacles must be overcome, and lastly ongoing vaccine resistance must be curtailed.

In moments like this, let us remember that the US has incredible capacity to make things happen. When we commit to a common goal, nothing is impossible. We are not alone. The G-7 + European Union (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, USA) and others are capable and have financial resources. As with all things, it is a matter of will and vision.

The next meeting of the G-7 + European Union is in Great Britain from June 11-13. Please take a moment to call or write President Biden and our Minnesota Congressional Delegation, expressing that it is critically important for the United States to lead in stopping this horrible disease by the end of 2022. This means a substantial increase in our financial and human resource commitment.

Above all, let us not forget that we are all part of the human family, and that what happens in the world affects us here.

Note:  Representatives of UNA-MN met with senior staff advisors to Rep. Tom Emmer and Rep. Betty McCollum in May to discuss COVAX and other issues of legislative significance related to the United Nations.  If you would like to join our advocacy efforts, please contact us at info@unamn.org


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