The aid would also go toward other supplies, including protective gear and Covid treatments. Republicans have said they will support the aid, but have demanded that it be paid for by repurposing money already approved by Congress earlier in the pandemic.
Public health experts worry that wealthier nations are leaving other countries behind as they turn to third and fourth vaccine doses. The World Health Organization has been pushing for wealthier nations to share access to vaccines and therapeutics with the world’s more vulnerable populations.
“We can end the acute phase of #COVID19 this year but only if we work together to close inequities in access to vaccines and other lifesaving tools,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general, said in a video he posted to Twitter on Tuesday.
Devi Sridhar, a professor and head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh, described the cut to the proposed package as a “major step backward.”
“I am worried that as we declare the end of the pandemic in Britain and the United States, we forget that it’s still causing a lot of devastation in other places, even if we’re not reading about it in the headlines,” Professor Sridhar said.
The uncertainty over Covid funding comes as the vaccination campaign has stalled in the United States, where total cases have now surpassed 80 million, according to a New York Times database. Daily inoculation rates have fallen to their lowest levels since vaccines became widely available to the public in early 2021.
About 32,730 people received their first shot this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Booster shots are also waning, with only about 52,000 people getting their booster this week, compared with about a million people per week in early December, shortly after Omicron was detected in the United States.