How the U.S. fights diseases worldwide

Group of people sitting on floor (© Jerome Delay/AP Images)
Children from the Malawi village of Tomali wait to receive the world's first vaccine against malaria in a 2019 pilot program. (© Jerome Delay/AP Images)

The United States is improving access to vaccines in Africa and beyond, boosting the fight against COVID-19 and other diseases, including Ebola and malaria.

Vaccines save millions of lives each year and help people of all ages live longer and healthier lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Immunizations prevent 2–3 million deaths from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.

As the WHO highlights the value of safe and effective vaccines during World Immunization Week April 24–30, here is a look at several ways the United States and its partners are advancing immunizations around the world.

Halting Ebola in Africa

In December, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) immunized more than 1,800 people against the deadly Ebola virus using U.S. pharmaceutical producer Merck & Company’s Ervebo vaccine. The campaign stopped an Ebola outbreak in two months, while a 2018 Ebola outbreak in the DRC lasted two years.

Medical workers wearing protective gear working behind plastic sheeting (© Jerome Delay/AP Images)
A health worker treats an Ebola patient in Beni, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 2019. (© Jerome Delay/AP Images)

“Stronger disease surveillance, community engagement, targeted vaccination and prompt response are making for more effective Ebola containment in the region,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said December 16.

Providing COVID-19 vaccines worldwide

The U.S. government partners with COVAX to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Through COVAX and other partnerships, the United States has delivered more than 525 million safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 110 countries as part of President Biden’s pledge to donate 1.2 billion doses to the world.

Health care worker giving woman vaccine (© Odelyn Joseph/AP Images)
A woman receives a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine delivered through COVAX in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2021. (© Odelyn Joseph/AP Images)

In December, U.S. pharmaceutical producer Moderna, in partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced plans to provide an additional 150 million doses of its messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccine to COVAX at the lowest global price.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is getting vaccines where they are needed most. The U.S. initiative for Global Vaccine Access, led by USAID, tackles cold storage, logistics and vaccine confidence challenges to turn vaccines in vials into shots in arms around the world, with a specific emphasis on scaling up vaccination support in sub-Saharan Africa.

Reducing malaria infections

U.S. partner organization Gavi, on December 2, 2021, approved an initial $155.7 million investment to procure doses of RTS/S — the first widely available malaria vaccine — for sub-Saharan Africa between 2022 and 2025. Malaria kills more than 400,000 people each year, including 260,000 African children under the age of 5.

America’s long-standing commitment to global health helped British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline develop RTS/S in partnership with U.S.-based nonprofits, including a public health group called PATH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This decision by the Gavi Board to finance a new malaria vaccination program for countries in sub-Saharan Africa could save tens of thousands of lives annually in Africa,” Gavi chief executive officer Dr. Seth Berkley said in a December 2 statement.