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From Lucas Leiroz: He is a researcher in social sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical advisor.

An unexpected problem appears to be looming in American plans. In a recent report published by Politico, experts, citing sources within the organization, pointed out that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is running out of money to fund the global vaccination campaign planned by the Biden administration for 2022. The situation could be sad for Washington, which uses vaccination as a geopolitical agenda.

Washington’s main funding agency for international projects does not appear to be able to deliver on Joe Biden’s plans to promote vaccination on a large scale around the world. The agency, which spent nearly $ 2 billion last year promoting the shipping and distribution of doses of the U.S.-made Covid-19 vaccine, now runs out of money to continue U.S. plans for 2022 . The organization has not received any additional investment from the government or private partners lately, so it has little money at its disposal. The American goal of global vaccination is currently estimated at around $ 7 billion, a high value that is virtually unpaid to the agency in the current circumstances.

Anonymous sources at the agency reported that several meetings between senior USAID officials had taken place over the past few weeks to discuss the possible consequences of a partial halt to the global immunization program. The agency’s experts agree that even a brief interruption of the mass vaccination program would be enough to trigger a new wave of infections in the poorest countries with weaker health systems. The consequence would be the possible appearance of a new variant that would eventually reach the developed countries.

However, the official presentation by the American government is in direct contradiction to the claims made in the Politico report. Washington continues to claim that it has all the resources necessary to complete the campaign that has already begun. Speaking at a recent press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated, “There is always … an open line of communication with members and leadership about what may need to be vaccinated (…)”. Although Psaki tried to be optimistic and to instill confidence in public opinion, she did not provide any information about the funding of the campaign.

In contrast, the report cites personal testimony from two anonymous USAID officials who said: “USAID is not taking its foot off the gas in this effort and we are examining what will be required if we continue to work with our international partners to continue these efforts in 2022 (…) “We cannot do what we are supposed to do if we don’t have the money to do it. And we should not use the money that we have already earmarked for other humanitarian operations. Without more money, the vaccination campaign will slow down significantly ”.

In the midst of this war of narratives, the words of government spokesmen are certainly the most dubious. For Washington, confidence in its ability to continue vaccination is a matter of public image. The government has made and must honor a commitment, so it will certainly continue to claim that it is in control of the situation even if it is not.

The involvement of the Biden government can be traced back to its role in the COVAX initiative, a UNICEF campaign to distribute vaccines to the world’s poorest countries. In the current vaccine geopolitics, helping countries that cannot afford the vaccine doses has become a useful tool of power. The more vaccines a powerful country delivers to poor countries, the more international influence it gains. This is not a charity, but a way of non-military domination. In the midst of a process of decreasing American hegemony, these alternative mechanisms of power take-off are becoming powerful tools, and this is why Biden is so committed to the delivery of vaccines to poor countries around the world.

In practice, if the US stops shipping vaccines, other countries will have to pay to fill the space USAID has left. Certainly China will play an important role as it is the country that most supports poor countries in vaccination campaigns around the world (although the West rejects the Chinese campaigns for not recognizing the validity of the vaccines made in the Asian country) . A similar scenario can be said about Russia and Sputnik V. For Washington, that would mean losing ground to its greatest geopolitical rivals in another key strategic area of ​​the world today – in other words, it would be a disaster for American plans.

Once again, the American projects face the material reality of the country. Biden’s plan to vaccinate the whole world is likely to fail, and keeping promises to UNICEF will now become impossible. Big Western drug companies could invest money in USAID to support the campaign amid fears of Chinese and Russian vaccine expansions as well, but the $ 7 billion target is still unlikely to be met in the short term.

It is left to Washington to stick to its role in the present world order and to contribute only within its material and financial possibilities. No country alone will save the whole world or provide vaccines to all poor countries. The solution lies in multilateralism and cooperation.


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