Sun | May 26, 2024

Ja among 50 countries for new Biden administration partnership to stifle future pandemics

Published:Friday | April 19, 2024 | 3:33 PM
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Prime Minister Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's administration will help 50 countries, including Jamaica, identify and respond to infectious diseases, with the goal of preventing pandemics like the COVID-19 outbreak that suddenly halted normal life around the globe in 2020.

United States government officials will offer support in the countries, most of them located in Africa and Asia, to develop better testing, surveillance, communication and preparedness for such outbreaks in those countries.

The strategy will help “prevent, detect and effectively respond to biological threats wherever they emerge,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday.

The Global Health Security Strategy, the president said, aims to protect people worldwide and “will make the United States stronger, safer, and healthier than ever before at this critical moment.”

The announcement about the strategy comes as countries have struggled to meet a worldwide accord on responses to future pandemics.

Four years after the coronavirus pandemic, prospects of a pandemic treaty signed by all 194 of the World Health Organization's members are flailing.

Talks for the treaty are ongoing, with a final text expected to be agreed upon next month in Geneva. It's meant to be a legally binding treaty that obliges countries to monitor pandemic threats and share scientific findings. But major disputes have emerged over vaccine equity and transferring the technology used to make vaccines.

Even if a deal is hammered out, there would be few consequences for countries that choose not to abide by the treaty.

The US will push on with its global health strategy to prevent future pandemics, regardless of a pandemic treaty or not, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.

Several US government agencies — including the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services and the US Agency for International Development, or USAID — will help countries refine their infectious disease response.

Health systems around the globe have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 and other health emergencies such as Ebola, malaria and mpox, the CDC said in a statement. The new strategy will help countries rebuild their agencies, the US agency explained.

The White House on Tuesday released a website with the names of the countries that are participating in the program. Biden officials are seeking to get 100 countries signed onto the program by the end of the year.

The US has devoted billions of dollars, including money raised from private donations, to the effort. Biden, a Democrat, is asking for $1.2 billion for global health safety efforts in his yearly budget proposal to Congress.

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