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COVID-19 vaccine update: U.S. says not to join WHO-linked effort for coronavirus vaccine

14:56 | 02/09/2020

The White House has opted out of the Covax project, preferring a go-it-alone approach that worries public health experts when critics say move to go it alone is shortsighted.

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The U.S. announced Tuesday that it would not join an international coalition to find and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine worldwide due to the group's association with the World Health Organization, the latest sign of the Trump administration withdrawing the country from the international health community's response to the pandemic over political concerns.

covid 19 vaccine update us says not to join who linked effort for coronavirus vaccine
Nita Patel, director of antibody discovery and vaccine development at Maryland-based Novavax labs, lifts a vial containing a potential coronavirus vaccine on March 20. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration has said it won't join a global effort to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in part because the World Health Organisation is involved, according to a report in the Washington Post. This comes as part of Washington's plan to not work with the WHO, which President Donald Trump has criticised over what he characterized as its "China-centric" response to the pandemic.

As many as 170 countries are in talks to take part in the COVID-19 VaccinesGlobal Access (Covax) Facility that aims to speed vaccine development, secure doses for all countries and distribute them. The plan, co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, was of interest to some members of the Trump administration. It is also backed by traditional U.S. allies including Japan, Germany and the European Commission.

The plan, which is co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, was of interest to some members of the Trump administration and is backed by traditional U.S. allies, including Japan, Germany and the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.

But the United States will not participate, in part because the White House does not want to work with the WHO, which President Trump has criticized over what he characterized as its “China-centric” response to the pandemic.

covid 19 vaccine update us says not to join who linked effort for coronavirus vaccine
Image Source : AP

“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House.

The Covax decision, which has not been previously reported, is effectively a doubling down by the administration on its bet that the United States will win the vaccine race. It eliminates the chance to secure doses from a pool of promising vaccine candidates — a potentially risky approach.

“America is taking a huge gamble by taking a go-it-alone strategy,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University.

covid 19 vaccine update us says not to join who linked effort for coronavirus vaccine
A handful of the dozens of experimental COVID-19 vaccines in human testing have reached the last and biggest hurdle. Photo: marketwatch

In early April, Trump blasted the World Health Organization, saying they "called it wrong" on the virus, that the WHO was "very China-centric" in its approach, and froze U.S. funding to the organization. "They should have known and they probably did know," Trump said of World Health Organization officials, suggesting the group had gone along with China's efforts to downplay the severity of the outbreak. In July, the administration sent a letter signaling its intent to withdraw from the WHO. "When the U.S. says it is not going to participate in any sort of multilateral effort to secure vaccines, it's a real blow," said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. "The behavior of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health.", said the forbes.

"Equal access to a COVID-19 vaccine is the key to beating the virus and paving the way for recovery from the pandemic," said Stefan Löfven, the prime minister of Sweden. "This cannot be a race with a few winners, and the COVAX Facility is an important part of the solution – making sure all countries can benefit from access to the world's largest portfolio of candidates and fair and equitable distribution of vaccine doses."

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