President Biden Just Put Dr. Fauci in Charge of This
The familiar face throughout the pandemic has a new job under Biden.
President Joe Biden was busy on his first day in office. While former presidents, like Donald Trump and Barack Obama, signed one or no executive actions on their inauguration days, the 46th president of the U.S. signed 17 new orders, many of which reversed changes Trump had made. One of his first orders of business? Returning to the World Health Organization (WHO). And he picked one very familiar face to helm up those efforts: Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Read on to learn more and for the biggest change from Biden, check out The White House Just Issued This New Face Mask Policy.
Former President Trump announced last May that the United States would be withdrawing from the WHO, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formalizing the process in July 2020. Prior to the withdrawal, the Trump administration had strongly criticized the WHO, claiming it was skewed towards China's interests. On Jan. 20, Biden informed United Nations chief Antonio Guterres in a letter that he was retracting Trump's plan to withdraw from the WHO in 12 months.
Reestablishing the United States' involvement with the WHO was one of Biden's key campaign promises. "Once the United States resumes its engagement with the WHO, the Biden-Harris Administration will work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security," the transition team said in a statement, according to CNBC.
Here's what Fauci's new job with the WHO will entail and what he's already done so far. And for more from the NIAID director, check out Dr. Fauci Says You Need One of These at Home to Avoid COVID.
Fauci's first order of business was to attend meetings this week and formerly announced the U.S.'s intention.
Starting today, Jan. 21, Fauci attended the WHO's annual executive board meetings and delivered remarks on behalf of the Biden administration. "I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization," Fauci said via video conference.
He also thanked the WHO for their leadership throughout the pandemic. "I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global response to this pandemic," he said. "Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics." And for more from the WHO, check out This Type of Face Mask Isn't Protecting You From COVID, WHO Warns.
He's also ceasing certain practices Trump put into motion.
The U.S. had been withdrawing staff and winding down engagement with the WHO in anticipation of a full exit by July 2021—but Fauci said that's ending today. The Biden administration "will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO" and resume "regular engagement" with the organization, Fauci said, according to The Independent.
He added: "The United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization." And for more regular COVID news, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Fauci also said the U.S. will join the WHO's COVAX alliance, which brings vaccines to poor countries.
Fauci told the board that President Biden will issue a directive today signaling the U.S.'s intention to join the WHO-led COVAX alliance, a group of countries around the world that promotes equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. "President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development," Fauci said, according to The New York Post.
"The United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response," he added. And for more on vaccine safety, check out If You Take These OTC Meds, You Have to Stop Before Getting the Vaccine.
While the WHO is happy to welcome the U.S. back, there will be challenges ahead.
WHO spokesperson Andrei Muchnik issued a statement saying that "WHO looks forward to the participation of the delegation of the incoming U.S. administration at the Executive Board meeting," while Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joyfully responded to the remarks from his "brother Tony" on Thursday. "This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health," he said. "The role of the United States, its role, global role is very, very crucial." However, that doesn't mean that there isn't work to be done.
Speaking to Vox, Alynna Lyon, a United Nations expert and professor of political science at University of New Hampshire, warned that things may have changed even during the U.S.'s brief absence, with other countries—specifically China—stepping in to fill the power vacuum the U.S. left. "They've had a seat at the table, they're writing the checks, they are able to shape and frame and spin what the priorities are," she said. "The U.S. is late to the game on this. It's very difficult for the U.S. to just kind of waltz back in and say, 'We're back.'" So Fauci may have his work cut out for him. And for more COVID news you need to know, check out This Rare Trait Could Keep You Safe From COVID, According to Doctors.