Why Congress Must Fund At Least $ 17 Billion To End The Global COVID-19 Pandemic Once And For All

The Omicron variant has reaffirmed what health and social justice advocates have said since the start of the pandemic – no one is safe until we are all safe from COVID-19.

And becoming safe means being vaccinated, something that has been out of reach for billions of people around the world due to the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries, restrictive patent rules that limit vaccine production, and a lack of COVID-19 emergency funding.

But rich countries have an opportunity to break this deadlock in the coming year by fully funding the global effort to immunize everyone.

The United States, in particular, can take the lead on this issue by including at least $ 17 billion to support global immunization efforts in the funding to come budget for 2022 which will be negotiated in the coming weeks, according to defenders.

A group of members of Congress urged the White House to prioritize these funds in an open letter in December 2021 which underlined the importance of global solidarity.

“No investment in the fight against COVID-19 is more urgent and profitable now than an investment to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible,” they wrote. “Even assuming that rich countries will be fully immunized by mid-2021, the global economic cost of not immunizing low-income countries is estimated at $ 9 trillion per year, or nearly 10 percent of the total. Global GDP. “

The humanitarian association CARE calculated that the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator, or ACT-A, will need $ 63 billion this year to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of the world by the middle of this year.

About $ 40 billion of this amount will be used to maintain rigorous storage and delivery protocols that ensure vaccines remain effective, especially in hard-to-reach rural areas that often lack adequate electricity. Low-income countries themselves can afford $ 20 billion of this amount, but an additional $ 20 billion will need to come from donor countries like the United States.

With an additional $ 23 billion needed for ACT-A to purchase vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, and to support health systems more broadly, rich countries will need to provide $ 43 billion to meet public health goals. A fair amount for the United States – given economic size and ability to pay – would be $ 17 billion, according to CARE.

While that sounds like a lot, it’s meager against the backdrop of overall COVID-19 relief spending. In the first six months of the pandemic alone, countries spent $ 11 trillion to fight the virus. The United States spent $ 1.9 trillion to first major COVID-19 relief program.

Failure to bring together the necessary resources would have catastrophic consequences. Already 5.5 million people died from the virus, and cases are increasing around the world.

Vaccinations and treatments for other deadly diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis stagnated amid the pandemic. In low-income countries, overwhelmed health systems have struggled to provide care for people with common illnesses and conditions. As a result, the deaths of women and children have skyrocketed because they are unable to receive medical care for health issues beyond COVID-19.

More … than 163 million people have been plunged into extreme poverty, rates of hunger has skyrocketed, and billions of children have their studies were interrupted.

With each month that the pandemic continues, the pressure on health systems intensifies, the growing chasm of inequality widens, and opportunities present themselves for the emergence of new, more deadly variants of COVID-19.

“Focusing exclusively on national testing, vaccines and booster shots is insufficient to protect us from the virus,” members of Congress wrote in their letter to the White House. “The moment to act was a year ago. We cannot afford to waste one more moment and risk the emergence of another even more dangerous variant. It is high time to end this pandemic. “