In the latest Senate package aimed at curbing the coronavirus, US lawmakers cut nearly all funding to prevent the virus from spreading beyond US borders, a move many health experts have described as dangerously short-sighted.
Experts warn that suspending COVID-19 aid for the poorest countries may eventually allow the kind of rampant transmission needed for the next worrisome emergence, undoing many of the gains made so far.
The United States has been the largest contributor to the global response to the pandemic, providing more than 500 million vaccines, and the lack of funds would be a major setback. The money paid for several interventions, including a mass vaccination campaign in the capital of Cameroon where hundreds of thousands of people received their first dose, as well as the construction of a COVID-19 care center in South Africa and the donation of 1,000 ventilators to that country.
Other vaccination campaigns funded by the United States could also end in dozens of countries – including Uganda, Zambia, Ivory Coast and Mali.
Misaki Winegra, the Ugandan official who heads a technical committee advising the government on the response to the pandemic, warned that “any disruption to funding will affect us”. He noted that Uganda relies heavily on donor aid – it has received more than 11 million vaccines from the US – and that any cuts “will make it difficult for us to make the money pay off.”
“This is a disappointing decision for poor countries that last year promised billions of vaccines and resources in the big promises made by the G7 and G20,” said Michael Head, a researcher in global health at the University of Southampton in Great Britain.
Megarian reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Rodney Muhumosa in Kampala, Uganda; Mogomotsi Magume and Andrew Melderem in Johannesburg and Shinido Asado in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.
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