U.S., foreign officials pledge $3.1B in new Covid funding

He called on world leaders to do more and asked Congress to continue funding to fight the pandemic at home and abroad.

As the world’s attention has shifted from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, the leaders warned that the pandemic isn’t over and aimed to show they’re taking steps to prepare for the next one by committing money to a new pandemic preparedness fund at the World Bank. But some global health experts noted the gap in pandemic funding persists after the new commitments.

“It is important that new resources, including funding, are being committed to the pandemic response,” Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, told POLITICO in an email, emphasizing the importance of countries aligning goals at today’s summit. “In the current climate, $3.1 [billion] may be more than expected, but falls far short of even the [global health response] funding gap for this year, which is almost $15 [billion].”

Participating countries, from Australia to Germany and Japan, committed over $2 billion for the immediate Covid-19 response and $962 million toward the preparedness and global health security fund at the World Bank.

Japan pledged up to $500 million to the global vaccine equity effort COVAX, an additional $30 million for vaccine delivery and up to $200 million to increase local pharmaceutical production capacity.

The European Union agreed to $312 million for vaccination support, and $450 million for the pandemic preparedness and global health security financial intermediary fund (FIF).

Canada promised $560 million to the global pandemic response led by the World Health Organization and other international bodies under the so-called ACT-Accelerator. “This includes funding to continue making Covid-19 vaccines available and funding to help low- and middle-income countries support the health of women, children and adolescents,” Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the summit.

The United States committed an additional $200 million to the FIF, far less than administration officials had hoped to pledge when they began planning this summit.

“The fund will provide financing for improving local, national and global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to pandemics and other threats to global health security,” one senior administration official said Wednesday. The fund would be rolling out in September.

Last month, Congress failed to approve $5 billion in additional global Covid funding meant to help get shots in arms worldwide. There was a chance that funding was going to be included in another Ukraine supplemental package. But this week, Biden said he believed a package that included Covid funding would slow down the approval process and that the two measures would have to be separated, with a Covid package potentially moving through at a later date.

The U.S. also announced today that it has finalized a deal to license 11 Covid-19 technologies held by the National Institutes of Health with U.N. bodies, a move praised by advocates and global health leaders. These include the stabilized spike protein used in Covid-19 vaccines, research tools for vaccines, treatments and tests, and early-stage vaccine candidates and diagnostics.

The license will make these technologies available to researchers and manufacturers worldwide, said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Some are [at an] early stage; we don’t yet know the practical benefits. But the political benefits are significant, including to help catalyze further technology sharing,” he said.

Though the technologies are not finished products ready for the market, some have been the building blocks for the key Covid-19 tools available today, said Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-backed public health group that promotes access to vaccines and therapies.

“It’s hard to tell when a specific product will become available,” he said, noting there is no promise the technologies and candidates will eventually become useful products. “A lot of them look extremely promising.”

At the summit, many low- and middle-income countries, including Belize, Botswana and India, made policy commitments to raise their vaccination targets and streamline efforts to fight the pandemic.