US intends to join Covax and remain WHO member, says Anthony Fauci


Washington: US infectious-disease chief Anthony Fauci pledged his country’s commitment to the World Health Organization, including membership in a global effort to deploy Covid-19 vaccines. Fauci addressed the Geneva-based group a day after Joe Biden’s inauguration, underlining the new US president’s effort to mend ties with an agency crucial to fighting the pandemic. He confirmed that the US will join Covax, a 92-nation vaccine collaboration that the Trump administration declined to participate in.

‘The US also intends to fulfill its financial obligations’ to the WHO, Fauci said in a speech via a video link. “The US sees technical collaboration on all levels as a fundamental part of our relationship with the WHO, one we value deeply and look to strengthen going forward.” Fauci’s address initiates a campaign to re-engage with allies spurned by his predecessor. The United Nations agency was a frequent target of former President Donald Trump, who accused it of being lax on China and failing to provide accurate information about the virus. Biden reversed Trump’s decision to exit the WHO on his first day in office as the US death toll from Covid exceeded 400,000, higher than any other country.

The US has been the WHO’s largest contributor, providing $400 million to $500 million in mandatory and voluntary contributions, and Trump’s decision last year drew sharp criticism in Congress, as well as from allies in Europe. The WHO has been heavily involved in the fight against the coronavirus, especially in poor countries.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at Thursday’s session of a series of executive board meetings that began Monday. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Twitter late Wednesday. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, said earlier this week that a US rift with WHO may be healing and that the US was preparing to join Covax, the program led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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