Georgetown Global Health Expert on U.S. Remaining in WHO

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Media Contact

Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (January 21, 2021) — Today marks another important step as the United States reaffirms its status as a World Health Organization (WHO) Member State. On Wednesday, in a letter to United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres, President Biden terminated the previous administration’s efforts to leave the WHO, the organization responsible for directing and coordinating international health within the UN system. Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci presented remarks on behalf of the U.S. delegation to the WHO’s Executive Board meeting.

The move to remain a WHO Member State is celebrated by global health legal and policy expert Alexandra Phelan, SJD, LLM, LLB, a member of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. Part of Phelan’s current work focuses on strengthening international law for pandemic preparedness and response.

Phelan comments on the International Health Regulations, the U.S. joining COVAX and Dr. Fauci’s statement today at the WHO meeting. She says:

“The U.S.’s commitment to strengthening the International Health Regulations not only reinforces the U.S.’s return to multilateralism, but is also important to rebuild the norms of acceptable conduct by countries in responding to global health security threats.

“The additional confirmation that the U.S. will join COVAX is a welcome first step in addressing the disastrous ethical catastrophe of global vaccine injustice. The U.S. must follow this commitment with tangible financial and political support of global equitable vaccination.

“By affirming the U.S.’s financial and political support of WHO, Dr. Fauci’s statement today committing the U.S. to a robust and clear investigation into the outbreak’s origins is critical political weight for WHO right now. This will be important in any efforts to hold countries to their obligations to report outbreaks, share data and pathogen samples, and respond in an evidence-based and human rights-based manner to outbreaks. In addition, the U.S.’s support of a robust investigation may uncover useful information that helps us avert future outbreaks.”

To arrange an interview with Phelan, please contact: Karen Teber,