WASHINGTON - The U.S. will invest $400 million into distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, according to USAID.
"We’re going to spend an additional $400 million to double down on our efforts to help countries raise vaccination rates and save lives," USAID administrator Samantha Power announced Monday. "This money will speed efforts both to get shots in arms and to support vaccine manufacturing in low-and-middle-income countries."
Power said the investment is part of President Joe Biden’s plan to help vaccinate the world against COVID-19.
Vaccination rates have lagged in other countries. According to an analysis by the ONE Campaign, an international aid and advocacy organization, only 4.7% of people living in low-income countries have received a first dose. Wealthy nations administered more than 173 million booster shots, while lower-income countries have administered about 32 million first shots.
In September, Biden announced that the United States is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year. About 160 million shots supplied by the U.S. have already been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined.
"To beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere," Biden said. He added that with the new commitments, "For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world."
World health officials are concerned lagging vaccinations could cause a surge with the latest coronavirus variant — omicron.
U.S. health officials said Sunday that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.
"Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it," Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s "State of the Union." "But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta."
But delta remains the dominant variant, making up more than 99% of cases and driving a surge of hospitalizations in the north. National Guard teams have been sent to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring any hospitals facing limited patient capacity to reduce scheduled procedures that are not urgent.
Two years into the outbreak, COVID-19 has killed over 780,000 Americans, and deaths are running at about 860 per day.
More than 6,600 new hospital admissions are being reported daily, according to tracking data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. have dropped by about half since the delta peak in August and September, but at more than 86,000 new infections per day, the numbers are still high, especially heading into the holidays, when people travel and gather with family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.