The United States will join a UN-led effort to share COVID-19 vaccines fairly between richer and poorer countries, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, announced.
Biden would issue a directive on joining the so-called Covax initiative on Thursday, Fauci told an online meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO), executive board.
The U.S. announcement came after Biden halted his country’s withdrawal from the WHO shortly after his inauguration on Wednesday.
The exit had been set in motion by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in 2020.
This will leave Russia as the only major power that is not backing Covax.
However, the project has been hampered by rich country’s efforts to secure additional vaccines for themselves rather than sharing them as agreed.
Fauci also said that Biden’s directive would signal the plan to join a WHO-led programme to speed up the development of COVID-19 vaccines, medications and diagnostic tools.
“I join my fellow representatives in thanking the WHO for its role in leading the global health response to this pandemic,” Fauci said.
Fauci announced that his administration would resume cooperation with the Geneva-based UN health agency to fight this pandemic and to prevent future ones.
The comments by the top U.S. government disease expert stood in stark contrast to Trump’s allegations that the WHO was to blame for the pandemic because it had helped China cover up the COVID-19 outbreak that was detected in Wuhan in late 2019.
“This is a good day for the WHO and a good day for global health,’’ WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded, addressing Fauci as “my brother Tony.’’
“The role of the United States, its global role, is very, very crucial,’’ Tedros added.
A U.S. exit from the WHO would have meant the loss of the agency’s biggest financial contributor.
Washington has been providing between 400 and 500 million dollars a year to the WHO budget of nearly three billion dollars.
Although Fauci addressed Tedros as “my dear friend,’’ he made clear that some U.S. policies will not change under the new administration.
The U.S. scientist stressed the need for a thorough WHO probe into the origins of the outbreak in China has not changed under the new administration.
“The international investigation must be robust and clear,’’ Fauci said, referring to the current WHO-led mission of international experts who are visiting China.
There is also a need to reform the WHO and to improve UN mechanisms to respond to health emergencies, he added.
Fauci pledged that the U.S. would work more closely with international partners on a range of global health issues including sexual health and reproductive rights of women.
In the coming days, Biden will revoke a U.S. funding ban for non-governmental groups around the world that advised women on abortions or that lobby for the legalisation of abortions, Fauci announced.
This ban, known as the Mexico City Policy, was originally put in place by Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1984.
The policy has been subsequently revoked and reimposed by a succession of Democratic and Republican presidents several times.