U.S. Will Share COVID-19 Vaccine Technology, Biden Tells Global Summit

By Ahmed Aboulenein

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) – The United States will share technologies used to make COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization and is working to expand rapid testing and antiviral treatments for hard-to-reach populations, President Joe Biden said on Thursday.

Speaking at the second global COVID-19 summit, Biden called on Congress to provide additional funds so that the U.S. may contribute more to the global pandemic response.

“We are making available health technologies that are owned by the United States government, including stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines,” Biden said in his opening speech.

The summit, jointly hosted by the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal, is being held virtually on Thursday for countries to discuss efforts to end the pandemic and prepare for future health threats. 

It is set to build on efforts and commitments made at the first global summit in September, including getting more people vaccinated, sending tests and treatments to highest-risk populations, expanding protections to health-care workers, and generating financing for pandemic preparedness.

It has gathered more than $3 billion in new funding to fight the pandemic, the White House said, including over $2 billion for immediate response and $962 million in commitments to the World Bank pandemic preparedness fund. Read full story

The contributions include the United States contributing an additional $200 million to a global health fund for future pandemic preparedness at the World Bank, bringing its total contribution to $450 million, it said.

The European Union said it was providing 300 million euros for vaccination support, and $450 million for the preparedness fund. NGOs, philanthropies, and the private sector made over $700 million in new commitments.

Several generic drugmakers that will produce versions of Pfizer’s PFE.N COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid have agreed to sell the medicine in low- and middle-income countries for $25 a course or less, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) said on Thursday. Read full story

At least 14 other countries as well as the WHO, European Commission, private-sector companies like Google GOOGL.O, and non-governmental organizations, are attending the summit.

“This summit is an opportunity to renew our efforts, to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting this pandemic under control and preventing future health crises,” Biden said.

He called on world leaders to consider how their countries could contribute further to the global pandemic response.

“That is why I continue to call on Congress here at home to take the urgent action to provide emergency COVID-19 funding,” he said. “The request also includes $5 million to keep up our global partnership in the fight against COVID-19, to sustain our efforts to get shots in people’s arms all around the world.”

Biden has asked Congress for over $22.5 billion in additional COVID-19 response funds, including $5 billion for international aid, but lawmakers have failed to pass any funding bill and those negotiating the package have been unable to agree on how to pay for the global response.

While additional U.S. funding may be stuck, the commitment to share 11 COVID-19 technologies with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) should help improve access to vaccines, treatments, and tests in lower-income countries by allowing them to work on generic versions, the WHO said. 

“It’s through sharing and empowering lower-income countries to manufacture their own health tools that we can ensure a healthier future for everyone,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

The technologies will be licensed by the U.S. National Institutes for Health to the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and the MPP, initiatives set up to share know-how with manufacturers all around the world, allowing them to work on generic versions of key COVID-19 tools.

Scientists at the NIH worked with Moderna MRNA.Oto develop its COVID-19 shot. 

The United States has delivered over 500 million doses of vaccines to over 100 countries as part of the 1.2 billion doses it pledged at the first summit in September and has already committed over $19 billion in funding for vaccines, tests, treatments, and other forms of assistance, Biden said.

“There is still so much left to do. This pandemic isn’t over,” said Biden. “Today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, 1 million COVID deaths, 1 million empty chairs around a family dinner table. Each irreplaceable.”

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Jennifer Rigby in London, Michael Erman in New York, and Chris Gallagher in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Nick Zieminski)

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