The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)

Biden pledges 500M doses, calls on world leaders to join

- By Zeke Miller, Aamer Madhani and Jonathan Lemire

ST. IVES, ENGLAND >> President Joe Biden urged global leaders Thursday to join him in sharing coronaviru­s vaccines with struggling nations around the world, after he promised the U.S. would donate 500 million doses to help speed the pandemic’s end and bolster the strategic position of the world’s wealthiest democracie­s.

Speaking in England before the summit of the Group of Seven world leaders, Biden announced the U.S. commitment to vaccine sharing, which comes on top of 80 million doses he has already pledged by the end of the month. He argued it was in both America’s interests and the world’s to make vaccinatio­n widely and speedily available everywhere.

“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said.

He added that the next day, the G-7 nations would join the U.S. in outlining their vaccine donation commitment­s.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in The Times of London newspaper that it was time for wealthy countries to “shoulder their responsibi­lities” and “vaccinate the world.” His country has yet to send any doses abroad or announce a solid plan to share vaccines. Johnson indicated Britain had millions of doses in surplus stocks.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the U.S. commitment and said Europe should do the same.

“I think the European Union needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States” and be able to make a similar announceme­nt, he said at a news conference.

No ‘pressure for favors’

Biden said the U.S. was sharing its doses “with no strings attached” or “pressure for favors.”

“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, and that’s it,” he said.

Biden had faced mounting pressure to outline his global vaccine-sharing plan, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced and the demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped precipitou­sly in recent weeks.

“In times of trouble, Americans reach out to offer help,” Biden said, adding that the U.S. doses would “supercharg­e” the global vaccinatio­n campaign. “Our values call on us to do everything that we can to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.”

The U.S. commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distributi­on through the global COVAX alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most. A price tag for the 500 million doses was not released, but the U.S. is set to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor, in addition to its single largest funder with a $4 billion commitment.

The global alliance has distribute­d just 81 million doses, and parts of the world, particular­ly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts. White House officials hope the ramped-up distributi­on program can be the latest example of the theme Biden plans to hit frequently during his week in Europe: that Western democracie­s, and not rising authoritar­ian states, can deliver the most good for the world.

White House officials said the 500 million vaccines will be shipped starting in August, with the goal of distributi­ng 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022.

After leading the world in new cases and deaths over much of the last year, the rapid vaccinatio­n program in the U.S. now positions it among the leaders of the global recovery. Nearly 64% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one vaccine dose, and the average numbers of new positive cases and deaths in the U.S. are lower now than at any point since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The Organizati­on for Economic Cooperatio­n and Developmen­t last week projected that the U.S. economy would grow at a rate of 6.9% this year, making it one of the few nations for which forecasts are rosier now than before the pandemic.

U.S. officials hope the summit will conclude with a communique showing a commitment from the G-7 countries and nations invited to participat­e to do more to help vaccinate the world and support public health globally.

Boosting supplies

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Wednesday that G-7 leaders are “converging” around the idea that vaccine supply can be increased in several ways, including by countries sharing more of their own doses, helping to increase global manufactur­ing capacity, and doing more across the “chain of custody” from when the vaccine is produced to when it is injected into someone in the developing world.

Biden harked back to the Detroit-area workers who 80 years ago built tanks and planes “that helped defeat the threat of global fascism in World War II.”

“They built what became known as the arsenal of democracy,” Biden said. “Now a new generation of American

men and women, working with today’s latest technology, is going to build a new arsenal to defeat the current enemy of world peace, health and stability: COVID-19.”

He noted that Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., is not far from Detroit.

Last week, the White House unveiled plans to donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas, mostly through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others.

Officials say a quarter of that excess will be kept in reserve for emergencie­s and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners, including South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine.

China and Russia have shared, with varying success, their domestical­ly produced vaccines with some needy countries, often with hidden strings attached. Sullivan said Biden “does want to show — rallying the rest of the world’s democracie­s — that democracie­s are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere.”

More effective

The U.S.-produced mRNA vaccines have also proved to be more effective against both the original strain and more dangerous variants of COVID-19 than the more convention­al vaccines produced by China and Russia. Some countries that have had success in deploying those convention­al vaccines have nonetheles­s seen cases spike.

Biden’s decision to purchase the doses, officials said, was meant to keep them from getting locked up by richer nations that have the means to enter into purchasing agreements directly with manufactur­ers. Last month, the European Commission signed an agreement to purchase as many as 1.8 billion Pfizer doses in the next two years, a significan­t share of the company’s upcoming production, though the bloc reserved the right to donate some of its doses to COVAX.

Global public-health groups have been aiming to use the G-7 meetings to press wealthier democracie­s to do more to share vaccines with the world. Biden’s plans drew immediate praise.

Tom Hart, acting CEO at The ONE Campaign, a nonprofit that seeks to end poverty, said Biden’s announceme­nt was “the kind of bold leadership that is needed to end this global pandemic.”

“We urge other G-7 countries to follow the U.S.’ example and donate more doses to COVAX,” he added. “If there was ever a time for global ambition and action to end the pandemic, it’s now.”

Others have called on the U.S. to do even more.

“Charity is not going to win the war against the coronaviru­s,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead. “At the current rate of vaccinatio­ns, it would take low-income countries 57 years to reach the same level of protection as those in G-7 countries. That’s not only morally wrong, it’s self-defeating given the risk posed by coronaviru­s mutations.”

Biden last month broke with European allies to endorse waiving intellectu­alproperty rules at the World Trade Organizati­on to promote vaccine production and equity. But many in his administra­tion acknowledg­e that the restrictio­ns were not the driving cause of the global vaccine shortage, which has more to do with limited manufactur­ing capacity and shortages of delicate raw materials.

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 ?? PATRICK SEMANSKY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Joe Biden speaks about his administra­tion’s global COVID-19vaccinat­ion efforts ahead of the G-7 summit on Thursday in St. Ives, England. Biden is trying to show that democracie­s better than authoritar­ian states when it comes to fighting the coronaviru­s worldwide.
PATRICK SEMANSKY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President Joe Biden speaks about his administra­tion’s global COVID-19vaccinat­ion efforts ahead of the G-7 summit on Thursday in St. Ives, England. Biden is trying to show that democracie­s better than authoritar­ian states when it comes to fighting the coronaviru­s worldwide.

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