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At Covid Summit, Biden Sets Ambitious Goals for Vaccinating the World

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WASHINGTON — President Biden, who declared the coronavirus an “all-hands-on-deck crisis,” set ambitious goals on Wednesday to end the pandemic and urged world leaders, drug companies, philanthropy and nonprofit organizations to adopt a embrace the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world by next year.

But the course Mr Biden charted at a virtual Covid-19 summit he convened on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York may be difficult to achieve. And pressure is mounting on the president to lean more heavily on US pharmaceutical manufacturers, who are resisting sharing their Covid-19 technology with poorer countries.

The one-day meeting, the largest gathering of heads of state to address the pandemic, reflected Mr Biden’s determination to re-establish the United States as a global health leader after President Donald J. Trump cut ties with the World Health Organization had broken up last year, at the start of the corona crisis.

Mr. Biden announced a series of actions, including the purchase of an additional 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine at a not-for-profit price to donate abroad and $370 million to administer the injections. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States would donate $250 million to a new global fund that aims to raise $10 billion to prevent future pandemics.

“We are not going to solve this crisis with half measures or medium ambitions. We have to go big,” the president said in televised comments. “And we have to do our part: governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, philanthropists.”

Still, Mr Biden’s summit sparked some resentment toward the United States from those who have criticized the government for hoarding vaccines and not doing enough to help developing countries produce their own vaccines. Others said the administration was claiming credit for a plan that already existed.

“It’s not really new, but the financial strength of what they’re bringing to the table is obviously new,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a French virologist and former top WHO official, in an interview. She noted that the organization had already set a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of people in low- and middle-income countries by September next year.

“The US wants to be involved,” she added, “but they still aren’t quite sure how to deal with the new world that has developed during their absence.”

Biden has also been criticized for offering booster doses to fully vaccinated Americans while millions of people around the world, including health professionals, have yet to receive a first dose. In his address to the United Nations on Wednesday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said such inequalities are hampering efforts to rebuild the global economy, requiring trust and investment.

“The surest way to build that trust is to make vaccines available to the world in a fair and accessible way,” said Mr Kenyatta. “Unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment. The asymmetry in vaccine delivery reflects a multilateral system that urgently needs to be repaired.”

In his opening remarks, Mr Biden cited two particularly pressing challenges: vaccinating the world against Covid-19 and solving a global oxygen deficiency, leading to unnecessary deaths among Covid-19 patients who could survive if more oxygen were available.

But as soon as the president finished speaking and the television cameras were turned off, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, states and companies to immediately share doses, intellectual property and technical know-how for manufacturing vaccines, according to a person who attended the summit and took notes of the comments.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was also pointy, the person said. Mr Ramaphosa called the vaccine inequality “unjust and immoral” and reiterated his proposal that developing countries should be able to produce their own doses.

More than 4.7 million people around the world, and more than 678,000 in the United States, have died from Covid-19 — a “global tragedy,” Biden said. While three-quarters of Americans have been vaccinated at least once against the coronavirus, less than 10 percent of poor countries’ populations — and less than 4 percent of Africa’s populations — have been fully vaccinated.

According to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, 79 percent of the injections administered worldwide have been in high and upper middle income countries. Covax, the WHO-backed international vaccine initiative, is behind schedule in delivering shots to low- and middle-income countries that need them most.

At a briefing held this week by Doctors for Human Rights, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at WHO, made a case for countries to work together to distribute vaccines in a coordinated and equitable manner. She also urged countries to share their excess supplies.

“A country-by-country approach, a nationalist approach, will not save us from this pandemic,” she said. “And that’s where we are today.”

Experts estimate that 11 billion doses are needed to achieve global immunity. Before Wednesday, the United States had pledged to donate more than 600 million doses. The additional 500 million that Mr. Biden pledged brings the total US commitment to 1.1 billion doses, more than any other country.

“In other words, for every shot we’ve administered to pay in America, we’re now committed to doing three shots to the rest of the world,” Mr Biden said.

But activists, global health experts and world leaders say donated doses will not be enough. They are calling on the Biden administration to do more to scale up vaccine production worldwide, particularly in Africa, where the need is greatest.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversifying manufacturing centers around the world,” President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, which has experienced one of the largest increases in cases, said in his address at the General Assembly. “We know no one is safe until everyone is.”

The landscape of getting weapons has become increasingly challenging since Covax was founded in April 2020. Some Asian countries have imposed tariffs and other trade restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines, delaying their delivery. India, home to the world’s largest vaccine producer, has banned the export of coronavirus vaccines since April, although officials say they will resume next month.

In his opening address, Mr. Biden called on other rich countries to honor their donation commitments. He also seemed to have a veiled chance at China, which did not participate in the summit, and has sold – rather than donates – its vaccine for the most part to other countries.

“We should unite around the world on a few principles: that we commit to donating, not selling – donating, not selling – doses to low and lower income countries, and that the donations come without political commitment” the president said. said.

He also announced a vaccine partnership with the European Union and said the United States was working to scale production abroad through a partnership with India, Japan and Australia that was “on track to deliver at least 1 billion doses of vaccine in India.” to deliver globally by the end of 2022.”

However, the doses that the Biden administration is donating are slowly trickling out. So far, 157 million have been shipped abroad. dr. Peter J. Hotez, an infectious disease expert at Texas Children’s Hospital who helped develop a coronavirus vaccine manufactured in India, said the president should have provided “a candid articulation of the magnitude” of the shortage. .

“We won’t need it by 2023,” said Dr. hotez. “We need it now, in the next six to eight months.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

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