Covid-19 News: Global Cases, China ‘Zero Covid’ and Vaccine Updates

Credit…Aaron Ufumeli/EPA, via Shutterstock

Democratic and Republican senators are considering cutting up to $5 billion in funding for the global immunization effort from a new relief package — support in support of President Biden’s strategy to reduce vaccine inequality and limit the impact of the next coronavirus variant is of central importance.

On Monday, the Senate will continue trying to resolve a battle over a broader emergency coronavirus response package, slashing it from $15.6 billion to $10 billion. It was not clear if the narrower bill would have the votes to move forward in both houses of Congress.

While access to vaccines has gradually expanded worldwide, vaccine delivery remains a challenge a variety of reasons. In many low-income countries, only about 15 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to about 80 percent of the population in many middle- and high-income countries. according to the Oxford University project Our World in Data.

So additional financial support is urgently needed, said Gayle Smith, a former State Department coordinator for global Covid response and health security. The cut in aid, she said, “could be a signal that the United States believes the pandemic has been managed.” And while $5 billion is a sizable sum, she said, it is far less than the “tens of trillions this pandemic has cost the world.”

It’s not just about saving lives abroad. Uncontrolled outbreaks are giving rise to more dangerous virus variants, as was the case with Omicron, prolonging the pandemic and threatening even more damage to the global economy. “Our goal has to be – not just the US, but every country in the world – needs to shut this down as soon as possible so that we, #1, minimize the risk of new variants,” Ms. Smith said.

The United States has been at the forefront of the global response to a pandemic, Ms Smith said, providing $11 billion to the effort under America’s bailout plan passed last year. The country has also donated hundreds of millions of vaccine doses through the global Covax initiative and many more promised.

The $4 billion that the United States committed to Covax for its most recent fiscal year accounted for 36 percent of the initiative’s budget, according to the report an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Asked at a White House news briefing on Thursday whether Mr. Biden would sign or veto legislation that did not include significant international aid, Kate Bedingfield, the communications director, said the president had clarified the importance of funding efforts around the world been in the clear.

“Currently, countries are actually reducing our doses because they don’t have the infrastructure to take our life-saving vaccines,” Ms Bedingfield said. “The funding will obviously help solve this problem.”

The help would go too other supplies including protective equipment and Covid treatments. Republicans have said they will support the aid but have demanded that it be paid for by reusing funds already approved by Congress early in the pandemic.

Public health experts fear wealthier nations are leaving other countries behind as they move towards the third and fourth doses of the vaccine. The World Health Organization has urged that wealthier nations share access to vaccines and therapeutics with the world’s more vulnerable populations.

“We can end the acute phase of #COVID19 this year, but only if we work together to eliminate inequalities in access to vaccines and other life-saving tools,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s Director General, in a video he posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Devi Sridhar, professor and head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh, described cutting the proposed package as a “major step backwards”.

“I worry that while we are declaring the end of the pandemic in Britain and the United States, we forget that it is still wreaking havoc elsewhere, even if we don’t read about it in the headlines,” Professor Sridhar said called.

Uncertainty over Covid funding comes as the vaccination Campaign has stalled in the United States, where The total number of cases has now exceeded 80 million, according to a New York Times database. Daily vaccination rates have fallen to their lowest levels since vaccines became widely available to the public in early 2021.

About 32,730 people received their first vaccination this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Booster shots are also declining, with only about 52,000 people getting their booster this week, compared to about a million people a week in early December, shortly after Omicron was discovered in the United States.

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