The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) will begin meeting virtually today until January 26 to discuss organisational
The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) will begin meeting virtually today until January 26 to discuss organisational priorities.
The WHO is facing substantial challenges in managing the UN’s COVID-19 response. Currently, only approximately fifty countries have access to a vaccine meeting the WHO’s efficacy standards. Recent agency statements emphasise that global equity in vaccine access is necessary to successfully combat the virus. Still, support for WHO programming has fluctuated notably this past year, with the US contributing only half of its outstanding dues and withdrawing from the agency in July.
Expect the upcoming meetings to plan for equitable vaccine distribution. Looking forward, as incoming US President Joe Biden has committed to renewing support for the WHO, the agency will likely urge the US to engage with efforts such as COVAX, to provide vaccines to lower-income countries, and pay full dues.
The US will likely find a resumption of its previous leadership position problematic as its recent disengagement damaged trust and critical research collaborations. While countries such as China also pose challenges to WHO operations, a lack of US leadership has presented them opportunities to increase influence within the WHO by working cooperatively with agency scientists and administrators.