Trump Threatens To Permanently Freeze WHO Funding; HHS Secretary Azar Says WHO COVID-19 Response ‘Cost Many Lives’ In WHA Video Message; WHO DG Tedros Vows To Review Agency’s Work At ‘Appropriate’ Time

Devex: U.S. missing, China takes leader spotlight at WHA
“Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will provide $2 billion over two years to help with the COVID-19 response, just as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze funding to the World Health Organization. Trump was absent from the virtual World Health Assembly meetings, where several other world leaders delivered video messages…” (Ravelo, 5/19).

Financial Times: U.S. considers backing away from WHO move on Covid-19 drug patents
“The U.S. is preparing to publicly disassociate itself from language in a World Health Organization resolution that will back the right of poor countries to ignore patents in order to gain access to a Covid-19 vaccine or treatment. Many governments, particularly in Africa, fear they will be squeezed out by richer countries unless they can force companies that discover anti-Covid-19 therapies to share their intellectual property with manufacturers able to produce them cheaply at scale. African ambassadors in Geneva, where the WHO is based, said U.S. diplomats had sought to persuade them to support a dilution of language in the resolution, a proposal they had rejected…” (Pilling et al., 5/18).

POLITICO: Trump: U.S. funding freeze to WHO could be permanent
“President Donald Trump threatened to permanently end funding to the World Health Organization and reconsider the country’s membership in the global health body in a Monday letter criticizing the organization for its coronavirus response. … The letter claimed the WHO ‘ignored credible reports of the virus’ and accused the organization of acting in an obsequious manner toward the People’s Republic of China, including ignoring Taiwanese health assessments and caving to pressure from Chinese President Xi Jinping…” (Choi, 5/19).

Reuters: U.S. calls China’s $2 billion WHO pledge a ‘token,’ says it must pay more
“The United States on Monday said China must pay more than the $2 billion it committed to the World Health Organization, calling the pledge a token to distract from what the Trump administration claims was Beijing’s failure to properly alert the world to the coronavirus outbreak…” (Holland/Heavey, 5/18).

Reuters: WHO chief to review its pandemic handling, vows transparency
“The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that he would initiate an independent evaluation of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic at the ‘earliest appropriate moment’ and vowed transparency and accountability…” (Farge/Nebehay, 5/18).

STAT: In combative remarks, Azar tells WHO that its Covid-19 response ‘cost many lives’
“Health secretary Alex Azar on Monday publicly blasted the World Health Organization, telling its director general that the agency’s ‘failure’ to adequately warn the broader world about the forthcoming Covid-19 pandemic ‘cost many lives.’ In a prepared video delivered to the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, Azar said the U.S. government would support a full review of the organization’s Covid-19 response, calling the status quo ‘intolerable.’ ‘We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,’ Azar said. ‘There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives’…” (Facher, 5/18).

Wall Street Journal: Trump Threatens to Permanently Cut Funding to World Health Organization
“…The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking information on the changes Mr. Trump would like to see the WHO make. The president had suspended contributions to the group in April pending an internal review of the WHO’s response to the pandemic. The four-page letter details the results of that review. Noting that his administration has already discussed possible reforms with WHO officials, Mr. Trump gave the group 30 days to make ‘major substantive improvements’ or he would cut funding and reconsider U.S. membership…” (Restuccia et al., 5/19).

Washington Post: China’s Xi backs WHO-led review of covid-19 outbreak
“Chinese leader Xi Jinping called on the world Monday to rally behind the World Health Organization and support developing countries as he opened a WHO annual assembly after weeks of acrimony between China and the United States over a proposal to investigate the origins of covid-19. Xi’s speech, delivered via video at the invitation of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, signaled a growing sense of confidence on China’s part…” (Shih et al., 5/18).

Additional coverage of the WHO World Health Assembly and tensions among the U.S, China, and WHO is available from Axios, CNBC, Foreign Policy, The Hill, New York Times, POLITICO (2), Reuters (2), and Washington Post.

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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