Today, the United States has delivered half a billion COVID-19 vaccines, all donated free of charge, to more than 110 countries in every region of the world—more doses than any other nation. For every shot we have given in the United States, nearly one has been shipped abroad. Today marks an important milestone in reaching President Biden’s extraordinary pledge to donate more than 1.2 billion safe and effective shots worldwide, with no expectations in return.
Yet our work remains far from over. We have now lost at least 6 million lives globally to this deadly virus, and are witnessing new rises in cases and deaths in Europe and Asia. To move past the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, prevent new variants, and guard against future outbreaks within our nation’s borders, we must continue to do our part to vaccinate the world more equitably. U.S. vaccine donations have helped dramatically boost supply to low- and middle-income countries, but many countries need more help installing ultra-cold chain freezers to stop doses from spoiling, transporting vaccines to rural populations living miles from the nearest health facility, and countering widespread myths that hurt public trust in vaccines.
To address these needs, USAID is leading Global VAX, a whole-of-government effort to intensify financial, technical, and diplomatic support to help turn vaccines into vaccinations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of this initiative, begun in December 2021, USAID has helped launch thousands of vaccination sites, shared reliable vaccine information with millions of people, and installed hundreds of freezers to store vaccines. Since launching Global VAX in December 2021, vaccination rates in low income countries have risen from six to thirteen percent. These rates remain far below the global average, but such increases are promising—and we must do everything possible so that they continue to grow. Countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, and Zambia demonstrate the rapid progress that is possible when vaccine supply, the commitment of national governments, and global support converge. Only by expanding vaccine access can we begin to move beyond this phase of the pandemic—and build stronger health systems that can prevent the next one.
As we mark today’s milestone of delivering half a billion vaccines to the world, as well as the significant progress achieved in turning those vaccines into vaccinations, we are intensely focused on the work ahead and the resources this work will require. Without additional funding to support getting shots into arms, USAID will have to curtail our growing efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations—just as countries are finally gaining access to the vaccine supplies needed to protect their citizens. Leaving large unvaccinated populations both at home and worldwide will increase the risk of new and potentially deadly variants emerging that could evade our current vaccines and treatments. The Administration would also be unable to extend Global VAX surge support to more than 20 additional under-vaccinated countries that will need intensive support this year to get shots in arms. This will devastate our ability to make sure those countries can effectively deploy safe and effective vaccines. USAID would also be unable to provide life-saving supplies, tests, therapeutics, oxygen, and humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to manage a continuing COVID-19 disease burden. We ask Congress to promptly provide the Administration with the urgent funding we need to continue this work of both vaccinating the world and protecting Americans at home.