Now, it’s unclear when the summit will take place as White House officials are still planning the details of the meeting. One senior U.S. official said the event could take place in May.
“While it is true that the summit has been delayed by Russia’s actions, our focus on the global response is not diminished,” a senior administration official told POLITICO in a statement. The official denied that the global Covid-19 funding dispute impacted the scheduling of the summit. “We continue to ask Congress to act with urgency to fund our global Covid-19 response, and we are asking all countries and partners to make commitments to do more.”
At Biden’s first vaccine summit in September 2021, he called on countries to commit more resources to help increase vaccination rates across the globe. At the meeting, the U.S. committed to donating an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and to giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. Agency for International Development to help with immunizations.
While the administration has followed through on its commitment to provide the Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Congress this week failed to approve additional funding for USAID that would have helped the agency support its new program to help ramp up vaccination rates in 11 low-income countries in Africa through 2022. The agency originally requested close to $19 billion in additional funding.
The administration is expected to make additional announcements at the event, including helping to finance the distribution of vaccinations and therapeutics and helping to strengthen health systems in low-income countries.
The delay comes as the global health community debates how best to tackle Covid-19. Many countries, including the U.S., have begun to move on from the pandemic’s emergency phase and have relaxed public health restrictions such as indoor mask mandates and quarantine measures.
Omicron subvariant BA.2 is spreading in other regions, driving up cases and hospitalizations in Europe, China and Hong Kong. And top health officials in the Biden administration are preparing for a possible surge in the U.S. this spring.
Meanwhile, millions of people across the world still have not received their first shots. The World Health Organization is still holding to its 2021 goal of vaccinating 70 percent of every country by the middle of the year even though most global health organizations have realized the pledge is likely unattainable. Many are now focusing on vaccinating 90 percent of every country’s vulnerable populations by July.
At last year’s global Covid summit, the Biden administration made a similar pledge as WHO — that it would help inoculate 70 percent of every country by September 2022. Now, it is rethinking whether to pivot to concentrate on vaccinating the vulnerable, the senior U.S. official and one of the people familiar with the matter said.
“For our part, we continue to pursue this [70 percent] goal,” the senior administration official said, adding that the U.S. is also working to prioritize vulnerable populations.