- Dr. Anthony Fauci's comments came one day after President Joe Biden was sworn into office.
- "This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
- Fauci last month accepted Biden's offer to join his administration and serve as chief medical advisor.
The U.S. will remain a member of the World Health Organization under President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday, and intends to join a global alliance that aims to deliver coronavirus vaccines to low-income countries.
Speaking from Washington by videoconference one day after Biden was sworn into office, the U.S. chief medical advisor told the WHO's executive board: "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."
The Biden plan was released later Thursday. Here are the details.
The U.S. will also remain a member of the WHO and "fulfill its financial obligations," Fauci said. In May, then-President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the WHO, but the process wasn't expected to be finalized until this July.
Fauci said the Biden administration planned to work with the other 193 member states to help "strengthen and reform" the United Nations health agency.
"This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health," said the agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"We are all glad that the United States of America is staying with the family," Tedros said via Twitter.
WHO delegates "warmly welcomed" the decision, with many underlining their appreciation that the new administration would now seek to reengage with the international aid group amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, noted that his announcement came exactly one year after the U.S. confirmed its first case of the coronavirus.
More than 96.9 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 2.07 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has recorded the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths.
Fauci last month accepted Biden's offer to join his administration and serve as chief medical advisor. He is leading a U.S. delegation at the WHO's annual meetings throughout the week.
Trump had repeatedly criticized the WHO for being what he perceived to be too "China-centric," and denounced the amount of funding the U.S. allocated to the health agency in comparison to other countries.
The U.S. was the largest single donor to the Geneva-based aid group in 2019. It reportedly contributed more than $400 million, accounting for roughly 15% of the WHO's budget.
The WHO is funded by a combination of members' fees based on wealth and population and voluntary contributions.
Tedros said in August that he hoped the U.S. would reconsider its decision to leave the organization. The problem was "not about the money," he said, but rather about the lack of cooperation in the midst of the pandemic.
Among 17 executive orders issued by Biden on his first day in office, the 46th president of the U.S. put a stop to Trump's proposal to withdraw from the WHO.
It was one of several major changes Biden plans to make to combat the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world.
The president also launched a "100 Days Masking Challenge," asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days and requiring face coverings and physical distancing on federal property. Biden also urged states and local governments to follow suit.
COVAX is one of the three pillars of the so-called Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, introduced by the WHO, European Commission and France last April. It focuses on the equitable access of Covid diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
The Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi describes the initiative as "the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth."
There are 190 countries and territories participating in COVAX, which is co-led by the World Health Organization, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation. It said it was able to secure the doses through additional supply agreements with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
COVAX has said it's planning for initial deliveries to begin in the first quarter of 2021 if the drugs are approved. There should be enough doses delivered in the first half of the year to protect health and social care workers in the participating economies, the alliance said.
COVAX plans to deliver at least 1.3 billion doses to 92 countries, which are all low- and lower-middle-income, participating in the facility by some point next year.
— CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.