Joe Biden

Background Press Call by Senior Administration Official Previewing the Second Global COVID Summit

May 11, 2022

Via Teleconference

6:06 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good evening. And thank you for joining our background call previewing tomorrow's Global COVID Summit. This call will be held on background, attributable to a "senior administration official." And it will now be embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, May 12th.

For your awareness, not for your reporting, the officials on this call are [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

With that, I will pass it off to [senior administration official]. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Welcome, everyone. Thanks. Thanks so much for taking the time today to join us. I'm -- our office's mission is to coordinate across the government to prevent, detect, and respond to pandemic and infectious disease threats that face America and the world.

And today, we want to brief you on the sum- -- on the Global COVID Summit that the United States will cohost tomorrow.

As you know, the United States has delivered over 500 million doses of vaccines to over 100 countries as part of the 1.2 billion doses committed by the United States at the last summit in September.

The U.S. has also led the world in COVID-19 funding, committing over $19 billion in funding to date in vaccinations, tests, treatments, oxygen, and humanitarian assistance. And we've partnered with countries to improve their capacity to make their own vaccines.

This has truly been an unprecedented public health effort to save lives around the world and keep Americans safe from the next variant.

On Thursday, the United States will continue our leadership globally by cohosting the Global COVID-19 Summit with Belize, which is serving as the CARICOM chair, with Germany as the G7 presidency, with Indonesia as the G20 presidency, and Senegal as the Africa Union chair.

We have made great progress since the last summit, but the pandemic is not over. And now is the time to continue to respond and also prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic.

The overarching purpose of the summit are really twofold. One is to redouble our efforts to control COVID-19. And the second is to ensure the world is prepared for the next one -- the next pandemic.

We will be joined by partners from around the world, including governments, multilateral organizations, philanthropies, businesses, and civil society leaders.

And there are really three priorities:

First, we want to prevent complacency. The pandemic is not over. We have the need to continue to address new subvariants, which continue to emerge, slowing vaccinations. We need funding both at home and from countries and other stakeholders to get more shots into arms and other vital lifesaving resources to the world. So the summit will focus on securing new resources and policy commitments to control COVID in 2022.

Second, we want to prevent deaths, and that means focusing on the most vulnerable. Since January of 2021, when deaths were at their highest around the world and a seven-day average of 14,000 deaths a day -- now they're down to about 2,000 deaths per day. That is some progress that countries around the world have contributed to, health workers have contributed to, but we still have more to do. Two thousand deaths a day is still too many.

The summit will focus on getting vaccines, tests, and treatments to those at highest risk, like the elderly, the immunocompromised, and frontline and health -- and other health workers around the world.

We do have the tools to control COVID -- vaccines, tests, and now new antiviral medicines -- but medical breakthroughs are not enough. We need more funds to hire vaccinators to support vaccination sites, to support fridges to store vaccines, to support fuel to -- for vehicles to deliver vaccines to people out of reach.

We also need new funding to purchase new treatments and expand test and treatment strategies like we've done for HIV/AIDS and malaria, and like we're doing for COVID here in America.

The third thing we want to do is to prevent future variants and pandemics. Delta and Omicron emerged in other parts of the world before they reached America. The next pathogen is also likely to emerge in another part of the world. And it's not a matter of "if," but "when."

The truth is we've learned we can stop outbreaks at their source by investing in the capacities of countries to carry out surveillance and detect the next variant and threat; to develop and manufacture medicines, vaccines, and test locally; and to equip local health workers, clinics, and hospitals to ensure that those lifesaving measures reach people who need them.

To do that, the summit will call for countries to invest in the new Global Pandemic Preparedness and Health Security fund at the World Bank.

This is not a talk-the-talk summit, it's a walk-the-walk summit. In advance of the summit, we've called on leaders of governments, civil society, businesses, and philanthropy to make significant new commitments to get shots into arms, expand access to tests and treatments, and enhance health security, and prevent future variants and pandemics.

We are doing our part in this effort by securing funding to embark on responding to this pandemic, to continue to respond to it in an unprecedented fashion. We are doing our part by convening the world around a coordinated effort, an urgent effort to save lives. Other countries are doing their part by providing new resources.

But the hard-fought progress we've made and the momentum we have is at serious risk without congressional action. Countries are declining our doses because they don't have the resources they need to get shots into arms, whether they'd be fridges to store the doses or information campaigns to combat hesitancy.

The President, as you know, has requested $22.5 billion in emergency funding to continue our COVID response. That includes $5 billion that will ensure the continuation of our vital, proven work to get shots into arms globally and to expand access to therapeutics.

Tomorrow, you will hear a loud call from the United States for Congress to act with the urgency that this virus warrants. We know the virus is not waiting for Congress to act, so we need urgent, urgent action, not empty words.

I'm going to turn it now to my colleague, [senior administration official], who will give you a sense of what to expect at the summit tomorrow.

[Senior administration official], over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, everyone. So what will we see tomorrow at the summit? First, you'll see that countries and the private sector stepped up. The summit includes leaders from all over the world, as you can see from the advisory that we released yesterday.

During the summit, the U.S. will join the four cohost countries -- again, those are Senegal, Germany, Indonesia, and Belize -- to kick off this summit.

And then at least 10 world leaders and heads of state will speak, as well as at least a notable -- many notable govern- -- non-governmental speakers will speak throughout the summit.

Vice President Harris will also join world leaders during Thursday's COVID Summit. She'll give remarks on the devastating impacts of COVID on Americans and the steps we're taking to manage the threat of new variants.

She'll also call on the international community to continue to step up and take action to manage the current threat and prepare for future threats.

The U.S. government is bringing the full force of its power to bear. Secretary of State Blinken, Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Secretary of Health and Human Services Becerra, USAID Administrator Power, G7 and G20 Sherpa and Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh, and COVID Response Coordinator Ashish Jha will all be participating tomorrow.

The opening session will be followed by three sessions that focus on major challenges that we face in moving from COVID-19 as an emergency to COVID-19 -- eventually -- as a controllable respiratory disease, and to a world that is truly prepared for the biological risks that we face and that are growing.

These sessions include focusing on getting vaccines to the world and particularly to the most vulnerable, saving lives by expanding access to tests and treatments, and presen- -- preventing future catastrophes by investing now in health security capacity and workforce.

To date, the summit has leveraged in new money more than $3.1 billion in commitments. These are additional to what has been raised at other points in 2022. They are on top of existing commitments. That's $3.1 billion. That would not have happened without U.S. leadership.

But if the U.S. is to remain a leader protecting Americans and the world from dangerous disease threats, we need Congress to act now to provide more funding for the COVID response.

As [senior administration official] said, there's a lot of chatter about what the U.S. is or isn't bringing to the summit. It's clear what we're bringing: We're bringing leadership and over $3.1 billion in leverage commitments that wouldn't have arisen without us convening this summit.

We come to this summit as the leader in the global COVID response. We've pioneered an unprecedented and urgent effort to navigate getting over half a billion lifesaving doses to hundreds of countries around the world with no strings attached.

We're the first country to buy doses for the sole purpose of donations -- not a small amount, a billion of them. And we've provided billions in funding for the "last mile" to work to get shots into arms.

That didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen by accident. It happened because countries and organizations want to step up to the United States and for the administration -- because he has been a leader in this response, President Biden, from day one.

This week, you're going to see important commitments of all types. You'll see major countries and regional bodies. You'll see Canada. You'll see the European Commission. You'll see the Republic of Korea. You'll see Spain and France contributing hundreds of millions of new dollars to get shots into arms. And relatedly, you'll see low-income countries committing to accelerations to vaccinate their most vulnerable.

You'll see political and substantial financial commitments to establish a new Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness fund at the World Bank so that it can stand up this summer. This is something the administration has personally championed.

We've been ab- -- we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time by preparing now, because the next pandemic could come at any time.

And you'll also see commitments from companies to look at setting lower prices for treatments and tests, to work with governments and international organizations to expand access for those most at risk -- country by country, community by community.

And finally, you'll see commitments to help provide facts to overcome the dis- and misinformation which has plagued -- pardon the pun -- this pandemic.

You'll see companies and other groups stepping up in some really creative ways. We've been really heartened by the responses that we've gotten from all over the world. This is the power of the United States convening power.

But we're also digging deep ourselves. So, in terms of what we're bringing to the table:

We will be providing additional funding for the Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness fund at the World Bank. Building on our initial seed pledge of $250 million to establish that fund, we'll be increasing our pledge by an additional $200 million, for a total of $450 million. The fund will provide sustained financing for improving local, national, and global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to pandemics and other disease or infectious disease threats.

There is now a strong global consensus to establish this new Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security fund at the World Bank.

You may have seen several weeks ago that Indonesia, the G20 president, issued a strong statement from finance ministers signaling political consensus and directing those next steps for this fund to the World Bank and the WHO.

Secretary of the Treasury Yellen, WHO Director-General Tedros, and others have been very publicly vocal about amplifying why this fund is critical to lessen or prevent the next pandemic as part of the overarching reforms of the global health architecture.

Last week, the World Bank sent a memo to their board noting the concept of this is, in its own words, "opening for business by September of 2022."

We're also pleased to announce this week that the United States National Institutes of Health licensed 11 COVID-19 research tools and early-stage vaccine and diagnostic candidates to the Medicines Patent Pool under the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. This includes licensing the NIH stabilized spike protein technology, which is a key component included in multiple existing COVID-19 vaccines. These licenses will enable manufacturers from all over the world to develop vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics for COVID-19 using these technologies, and to distribute them to low- and middle-income countries.

In addition to this important step taken by the NIH, the FDA is also committed to doing its part to facilitate greater global access to these lifesaving products, including through a rapid review of generic products for the global COVID response.

Through the FDA, we confirm our commitment to conduct thorough and efficient reviews of COVID-19 response products. While COVID-19 remains a public health emergency, FDA will prioritize the review of these COVID-19 therapeutics, including applications seeking tentative approval of generic products.

FDA grants tentative approvals for products that meet the requirements for FDA approval but cannot be approved for exclusivity or patent reasons.

Finally, the United States also will pilot test-and-treat strategies for the most vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries to help prevent deaths from COVID-19. The U.S. Agency for International Development will use $20 million in order to provide technical assistance and service delivery in up to eight countries to support rapid deployment of tests and treatments.

This will leverage $80 million from the global fund that they will use to procure rapid test kits and oral COVID-19 antiviral drugs.

It will build on an additional $22 million from Unitaid to provide -- to produce over $120 million in investments to introduce test-and-treatment strategies in over 20 countries in 2022. This collaborative early investment will catalyze test-and-treat adoption and expansion in additional countries.

And this commitment to pilot test-and-treat activities is a down payment on U.S. leadership that can be fully realized if Congress acts to provide the President's requested COVID-19 supplemental funding.

Despite these commitments to combat COVID-19 and to enhance future preparedness against health threats -- I just want to end by underscoring: Our progress and momentum against COVID-19 is at serious risk without congressional action. We continue to urge the Congress to act promptly to provide supplemental resources.

Without additional emergency COVID-19 funding, the United States will be unable to purchase additional lifesaving treatments for the American people, the United States will be less able to stop the spread of dangerous new variants from around the world, and the United States will be unable to keep vaccinating the world against COVID-19 and getting shots in arms to save lives here, at home, and abroad.

Again, we're grateful to the world for stepping up at this summit and this critical moment, and we're optimistic that the commitments that we and others are making will save lives and better prepare us for future threats.

With that, I'll turn it back over to [senior administration official].

MODERATOR: Thank you, [senior administration officials]. Moderator, would you mind giving directions again on how to ask questions?

Q: Thank you so much for doing this. I don't see the other two major global vaccine developers on the list of attendees. Were Russia and China invited by the U.S. or any of the other hosts, or did they decline? Or is there a reason that they're not involved in this? And how does that affect your ability to reach more people on the globe?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Anita, thank you. We -- in terms of whether Russia was invited: No, we did not extend a commitment ask to them. And with other countries, we have extended and asked for a financial or policy commitment.

Your second part of your question was: "How does that affect our efforts to lead the world and for the global response?" Well, you know, I think you'll -- you heard from my colleague that we're finding amongst the countries, the companies, the philanthropies, and the nonprofits that have committed to this effort that we've mobilized $3.1 billion of financing towards the global fight.

So, it's clear other countries are stepping up to do their part.

The administration is stepping up to do its part by virtue of cohosting this, by virtue of continuing to lead with the $19 billion of financing provided to us through the American Rescue Plan. And the fight is not done.

And so now we really need Congress -- specifically Republicans in Congress -- to show up not with empty words, but with action, and to act on securing and enacting the supplemental while lives remain at risk here and around the world.

Q: Hi, thanks for holding this call. You said the Vice President will be participating. Is President Biden playing any role in this in any form? And can you give us any sense of conversations he's had with some of these leaders in an effort to sort of engage them in adding value to the sum that you're trying to collect?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Peter, for your question. The Vice President will join leaders in the headline session at tomorrow's summit. She'll give remarks on the devastating impact of COVID on Americans and the steps that we're taking to manage threats of new variants.

And that's what this is partly about. It's about saving lives abroad. But we also know new variants come from -- have come from abroad, and this is about stopping those because that will also ensure the gains we've made in this country are protected and American lives are saved, and that businesses and schools continue to not be disrupted.

The President will address participants, and he will have a resounding commitment to ensuring that the goals of the summit -- to prevent complacency, to prevent deaths, and to prevent future variants and pandemics -- are front and center. His team has been engaged with the teams of the other cohosts all the way up to their presidencies. We've been meeting almost every other day, if not every day, to plan this together.

And so, you know, this summit -- the commitment here and the progress we've made overall just wouldn't be happening without the leadership of both the President, the Vice President, and several members -- as you heard -- of the Cabinet that are going to be speaking tomorrow.

MODERATOR: Thank you, [senior administration official]. And thank you, everyone, again, for joining our call.

Again, this call is now embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, May 12th, and it's on background, attributable to a "senior administration official."

Also, for planning purposes only, the summit is scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. And you can look at our advisory for the livestream link. And it will kick off with the President's remarks.

Thanks to all.

6:27 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call by Senior Administration Official Previewing the Second Global COVID Summit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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