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Democrats pushing Biden to increase funding for vaccine rollout

Lawmakers want $34bn for Covid-19 global effort as part of $3.5 trillion federal spending bill

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 07 September 2021 18:46 BST
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Democrats are pushing Joe Biden to increase funding for the global Covid-19 vaccine rollout in their $3.5 trillion spending bill.

A group of 116 Democratic lawmakers wrote to the president and congressional leaders asking them for $34bn in federal funding to increase vaccine manufacturing around the world.

And they have argued that the White House needs to do more to fight the pandemic globally to prevent the development of new variants.

While the US has vaccinated more than 53 per cent of the population, many countries have vaccinated just a tiny percentage of their citizens.

Backers of the congressional push say that have not yet received firm commitments from leadership or from the White House on their request.

“No one’s made any commitments to me about it,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey.

But he says he has spoken to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “everybody I’ve spoken to understands the need.”

Henry Connelly, a Pelosi spokesman, said: “We continue to pursue ways to increase funding for global vaccine distribution and manufacture, building on the nearly $8 billion in funds for GAVI, the Global Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund secured by the Speaker in earlier covid relief bills.”

But Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, said the group had not yet received a “formal response” from the Biden administration.

“I think we have more work to do. We have to persuade people that this is a top priority,” he said.

The White House has made a commitment to donate 500m Covid-19 vaccination doses by next year, with 130m having been already delivered.

And Mr Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced last week a $3bn investment in the vaccine manufacturing supply chain in the US, which he said would impact the worldwide delivery.

The World Health Organization is aiming to vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 per cent of every country’s population by the end of September.

But last week it admitted that 42 of Africa’s 54 counties were set to miss that mark, with only nine African countries having achieved the goal.

Last month, more than 200 health experts and civil society groups wrote to Mr Biden calling for the administration to develop a plan to manufacture 8bn vaccine doses per year within six months.

The US has now passed 40m cases of Covid 19 during the pandemic, with more than 649,000 deaths.

Around the world the total number of cases is around 219m, with more than 4.55m deaths.

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