By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

(NNPA) – The emergence of COVID-19 hotspots and the disconcerting new Omicron variant has health officials scrambling and America opening its wallet.

The United States will invest $400 million in a new program to help foreign countries get vaccines to their citizens quickly, as the federal government tries to calm alarm over the new Omicron variant and the worrisome Delta.

Officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said a program they’ve dubbed “the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access,” would enhance international coordination. Agency officials said it also would help countries “overcome vaccine access barriers.”

“The United States is committed to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, both at home and abroad, and has been instrumental in the global response to fight the virus. To date, the U.S. Government has responded in more than 120 countries to fight against COVID-19,” agency officials noted in a news release.

The emergence of COVID-19 hotspots and variants including Delta and Omicron underscores the importance of this global fight, officials remarked.

“Vaccinating the world is the best way to prevent future variants that could threaten the health of Americans and undermine our economic recovery,” the agency stated further.

The Biden-Harris administration maintains that as more vaccine supply flows to low- and middle-income countries, the United States and other donors must redouble efforts to help countries efficiently and effectively receive, distribute, and administer doses.

As part of the U.S. Government’s commitment to global frontline efforts to get shots into arms and save lives around the world, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced the U.S. Government’s Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, or Global VAX.

“This initiative will expand assistance and enhance international coordination to identify and rapidly overcome vaccine access barriers and save lives now, with a specific emphasis on scaling up vaccination support in sub-Saharan Africa,” Power announced.

Global VAX brings together a whole-of-government effort, through which the United States has already committed more than $1.3 billion for vaccine readiness, she continued.

“Today USAID announced U.S. commitments of an additional $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, generously provided by the U.S. Congress, to further augment this work.

“Global VAX includes bolstering cold chain supply and logistics, service delivery, vaccine confidence and demand, human resources, data and analytics, local planning, and vaccine safety and effectiveness. The U.S. Government has called on all countries to likewise step up actions and commitments toward enhancing access to global COVID-19 vaccines.”

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