Fauci praises WHO leadership in coronavirus pandemic, signaling break from Trump era
By Paul Schemm,
Anthony S. Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, praised the leadership of the World Health Organization on Thursday in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, a dramatic departure from the attitude of the previous U.S. administration.
Hours after taking office, Biden signed directives to reengage with the WHO and join its effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines around the world, reversing the position of the Trump administration, which repeatedly criticized the U.N. agency.
Fauci, who is also the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, led the U.S. delegation to the group’s executive board meeting and confirmed Biden’s decision, which includes honoring financial obligations to the cash-strapped health body.
“I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global response to this pandemic,” he said via videoconference. “Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.”
He also praised the WHO’s efforts in providing medical supplies to countries and giving regular briefings on the progress of the pandemic around the world.
President Donald Trump was highly critical of the organization and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, maintaining that they were too subservient to China by allowing it to cover up its mismanagement of the pandemic’s early days. In July, Trump issued a letter announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the WHO after a year. The United States is the organization’s largest donor.
The WHO’s actions in the early days of the pandemic have also been criticized by an independent panel, and reform measures are under discussion — a conversation Fauci said the United States would now be joining.
He also expressed support for WHO-led efforts to determine the origins of the pandemic with a mission sent to China, amid fears that Beijing will obstruct its efforts.
“The international investigation must be robust and clear, and we look forward to evaluating it,” Fauci said.
Tedros, along with many of the other participants in the meeting, welcomed Fauci’s announcement.
“The role of the United States, its global rule, is very, very crucial,” he said, and he congratulated Biden on his election win. “We have a lot of work to do, and lessons to learn to end the pandemic and meet the long list of global health challenges we face — the world will be better able to meet them with you.”
Fauci also announced that Biden would withdraw from the so-called Mexico City policy, which prohibits organizations that receive U.S. funding internationally from discussing or offering abortion services.