Devex Newswire: The key to the global vaccine race could be US export regulations

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The head of Moderna says the best way to expand the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines is to remove U.S. export barriers.

Tuesday’s news that the U.S. government is recommending a pause in the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine has had ripple effects. The company proactively suspended its distribution in Europe, and South Africa halted its use of J&J doses “out of an abundance of caution.”

• Coupled with similar setbacks related to the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, the news could be a blow for vaccination plans in lower-income countries. The former vaccine offers easier transport and storage, while the latter requires only a single dose.

• Stéphane Bancel, CEO at Moderna, said Tuesday that doing away with restrictions that require Moderna and Pfizer to supply the U.S. first would be “the biggest thing that will help the world soon,” Sara Jerving reports.

• This week the World Bank and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance urged countries with excess vaccines to release them as soon as possible.

The U.S. has administered over 187 million doses, while the entire African continent has administered about 13 million.

Read: Lift export barriers to boost global vaccine supply, Moderna says

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS

The world’s largest aid funders defied expectations and put forward a record $161.2 billion in 2020, after three years of declining contributions. The COVID-19 response drove a roughly $10 billion jump from 2019 to 2020, but those increases were not universal.

• 13 members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee saw their contributions decline in 2020 — led by a 10% U.K. drop. Will Worley reports that the U.K.’s budget cuts might last longer than anticipated.

• The U.S. remained the largest ODA donor with $35.5 billion in 2020 — 22% of the total DAC contribution and a $1.6 billion increase from 2019.

• Germany increased its development assistance by 14% — from $24.2 billion to $27.5 billion — contributing 17.6% of the DAC total.

Explore: Lisa Cornish and Vince Chadwick have an in-depth breakdown of the newly-released numbers.

MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

A survey by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation found that only 35% of countries reported that their school meal programs were linked to agriculture goals. Creating that connection has been key to convincing governments to allocate money from their own budgets to feed school children, says Arlene Mitchell, GCNF’s executive director.

Teresa Welsh reports on the challenge of transitioning school meal programs from donor to national funding.

HISTORY REPEATS

“I fear the situation in Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict. States must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated.”

— U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday.

Myanmar’s neighbors are also facing criticism for refusing to accept or protect refugees in the wake of the military coup d’etat. China has cited concerns about COVID-19 to close its borders, while Thai, Indian, and Malaysian authorities have detained or deported refugees. “While such concerns justify carefully managed public health measures, they do not justify forcing people back into dangerous situations,” said Refugees International President Eric Schwartz.

SPRINGS ETERNAL

Devex Pro: Missed the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings? We’ve got you covered with this video recap.

And just as the virtual dust has started to settle on the Spring Meetings, the advocacy organization Progressive International is launching a policy blueprint for transforming the role of debt in the global economy. The organization argues that the pandemic, “marks a critical juncture in the debt justice movement.”

GATES NOTE

Bill Gates is an outspoken champion for giving money away. But the billionaire philanthropist has been less vocal about a current proposal in his home state of Washington to levy a hefty wealth tax on its richest inhabitants.

“The measures in Washington state are a test of whether their rhetoric was just rhetoric — or whether they are prepared to back their beliefs up with muscle,” writes Theodore Schleifer.

IN OTHER NEWS

New Zealand wants to be the first country to require financial firms to report on their climate change effects, as part of efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050. [BBC]

Bashar al-Assad’s regime is weaponizing humanitarian aid delivery in Syria, according to a U.S. State Department report. [Foreign Policy]

U.N., Turkey, and Qatar will convene the Istanbul Conference on the Afghan Peace Process, which will run from April 24 to May 4. [UN News]

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry will visit China to talk climate cooperation in the lead-up to the U.S.-hosted summit next week. [BBC]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.