The United States under President Joe Biden intends to join the COVAX vaccine facility that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries, his chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the announcement to the WHO Executive Board, saying: "This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health."
Fauci, speaking from Washington by videoconference a day after Biden was inaugurated, said: "President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for Covid-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development."
The first batches of coronavirus vaccines are expected to go to poorer countries in February under the COVAX scheme run by the WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance, WHO officials said this week, even as they raise concerns that richer countries are still grabbing the lion's share of available shots.
The United States will remain a member of the WHO and "fulfill its financial obligations", Fauci said, adding it would also work with the other 193 member states on reforming the UN agency.
Biden's predecessor Donald Trump halted funding to the WHO, where the United States is the largest donor, and announced a process to withdraw from the agency in July 2021 in what was seen as part of a broader US retreat from multilateral organizations. "WHO is a family of nations and we are all glad that the US is staying in the family," Tedros said.