WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with the head of the World Health Organization in Washington on Tuesday and the two agreed to work toward boosting global pandemic preparedness and financing, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Yellen and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus discussed the importance of continuing efforts to vaccinate 70% of the population in all countries this year, and working to strengthen the global architecture to fight pandemics.
“They agreed on the urgency of tackling the chronic under-funding of pandemic preparedness before the world’s attention turns elsewhere,” Treasury said in a statement.
Nearly 491 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and over 6.5 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Yellen underscored the United States’ commitment to working closely with the WHO, the World Bank and the Group of 20 major economies to develop a financial intermediary fund on pandemic preparedness housed at the World Bank.
She and Tedros agreed such a fund would be an important element of the pandemic preparedness architecture.
Yellen emphasized the U.S. remains committed to helping countries get more COVID-19 vaccines in arms around the world and to supporting robust, well-coordinated efforts, including with the international financial institutions.
She stressed the G20 Finance-Health Task Force should work to bring finance ministers and their health counterparts more closely together to strengthen the global health architecture.
Tedros welcomed Yellen’s leadership in pushing for a stronger global response to COVID-19, better longer-term pandemic preparedness and greater health finance collaboration, a source familiar with the meeting said.
They also discussed the obstacles to boosting vaccination rates and the need for stronger coordination, as well as clear political, financial, operational and public messaging.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Reese)