Year’s End: Congressional State of Affairs
Congress is wrapping up the legislative year and checking off several key items and to-dos prior to the holiday season. On December 2, one day before a partial government shutdown would have kicked in, the House and Senate passed a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through February 18, 2022. This means government programs will keep running at the same levels as the previous fiscal year (in other words, under the funding levels set by the previous Administration) until a final bill is produced.
USAID Vaccine Initiative
On December 6, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced a new whole-of-government approach to accelerate global vaccine availability and improve international coordination. The Initiative for Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX) will place significant emphasis on improving COVID-19 vaccine efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. Administrator Power announced the initiative during a meeting with international development partners to discuss strategies and goals for rapidly enhancing global vaccine access and delivery efforts.
The announcement of the Global VAX Initiative included additional funding efforts to combat the pandemic and spread of variants due to lack of vaccine access. The new set of funding announcements, authorized through the passage of the American Rescue Plan in early 2021, totaled $400 million, bringing the full United States commitment to over $1.3 billion for vaccine readiness and availability. The majority of the funding, $315 million, will be used to support vaccine delivery in low and middle-income countries. This portion of the funding will target country-specific needs and focus investment on priorities such as cold chain and supply logistics to safely store and deliver vaccines, mobile vaccination sites for remote and rural populations, and ramping up resource and staffing deployment. Additionally, $75 million will go toward USAID’s Rapid Response Surge Support, which delivers resources, including oxygen, to COVID-19 hotspots and areas with high hospitalizations. Finally, $10 million will go toward supporting in-country vaccine manufacturing. This funding will help spur manufacturing investment in countries with capabilities to produce vaccines themselves. The funding will also target technical assistance needs required to build up vaccine manufacturing. This announcement of Global VAX initiative demonstrates the United States goal to increase and accelerate efforts to vaccinate the world.