2021-09-23 02:17:21 At Covid Summit, Biden Sets Ambitious Goals for Vaccinating the World

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

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Biden, who declared the coronavirus a “all-hands-on-deck crisis,” set out ambitious goals for ending the pandemic on Wednesday, urging world leaders, drug companies, philanthropies, and nonprofit groups to embrace a target of vaccinating 70% of the world by next year.

However, the path that Mr. Biden outlined at a virtual Covid-19 summit meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York may be difficult to implement. And pressure is mounting on the president to take a tougher stance against US pharmaceutical companies that are refusing to share their Covid-19 technology with poorer countries.

The daylong meeting, which was 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 severed ties with the World Health Organization last year, at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Biden announced a series of actions, including the purchase of 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine at a non-profit price to be donated overseas, as well as $370 million to administer the shots. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the US would contribute $250 million to a new global fund aimed at raising $10 billion to prevent future pandemics.

“We are not going to solve this crisis with half-measures or mediocre goals. “We need to go big,” the president said during a televised speech. “And we all have a role to play: governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, and philanthropists.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Biden’s summit meeting fueled some resentment toward the United States among those who have chastised the administration for stockpiling vaccines and failing to do enough to assist developing countries in producing their own. Others claimed the administration was taking credit for a pre-existing plan.

“It’s not really new, but the financial power of what they put on the table is,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a French virologist and former top World Health Organization official, in an interview. She mentioned that the organization had already set a goal of vaccinating 70% of people in low- and middle-income countries by September of next year.

“The United States wants to be engaged,” she added, “but they still don’t know how to engage with the new world that has emerged while they were away.”

Mr. Biden is also under fire for providing booster shots to fully vaccinated Americans while millions of people around the world, including health-care workers, have yet to receive their first dose. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya said in a speech to the United Nations on Wednesday that such inequities were impeding efforts to rebuild the global economy, which required trust and investment.

Mr. Kenyatta stated, “The surest way to build that confidence is to make vaccines available to the world in an equitable and accessible manner.” “Unfortunately, that is not the case right now. The asymmetry in vaccine supply reflects a multilateral system in desperate need of repair.”

Mr. Biden highlighted two particularly pressing challenges in his opening remarks: vaccinating the world against Covid-19 and addressing a global oxygen shortage, which is causing unnecessary deaths among Covid-19 patients who could have survived if oxygen were more readily available.

According to one person who attended the summit and took notes on the remarks, as soon as the president finished speaking and the television cameras were turned off, the World Health Organization’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on countries and companies to immediately share doses, intellectual property, and technical know-how for manufacturing vaccines.

According to the source, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was equally pointed. Mr. Ramaphosa called the vaccine disparities “unjust and immoral,” and he reiterated his proposal that developing countries be able to produce their own doses.

Covid-19 has killed more than 4.7 million people worldwide, including more than 678,000 in the United States, a “global tragedy,” according to Mr. Biden. While three-quarters of Americans have received at least one coronavirus vaccination, less than 10% of the population of poor countries — and less than 4% of the African population — has been fully immunized.

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

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, made a plea for nations to work together to distribute vaccines in a coordinated and equitable manner at a Physicians for Human Rights briefing this week. She also urged nations to share their surplus supplies.

“A country-by-country, nationalistic approach will not get us out of this pandemic,” she said. “And that is where we are right now.”

Understand Vaccine and Mask Requirements in the U.S.

Vaccination is the law.

The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-coronavirus BioNTech’s vaccine for people aged 16 and up on August 23, paving the way for mandate increases in both the public and private sectors. Vaccines are increasingly being mandated for employees by private companies. Such mandates are legally permissible and have been upheld in court.
Mask is supreme. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within outbreak areas, reversing previous guidance issued in May. See where the CDC guidance would apply, as well as where states have implemented their own mask policies. Masks have become a point of contention in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
Universities and colleges
Over 400 colleges and universities require students to be immunized against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that supported Vice President Biden.
Schools. Vaccine mandates for educators have been implemented in both California and New York City. According to an August survey, many American parents of school-age children oppose mandatory vaccines for students, but are more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers, and staff members who do not have their shots.
Hospitals and medical facilities
Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations for their employees, citing rising caseloads caused by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination rates in their communities, including within their own workforce.
The city of New York. Workers and customers must show proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations, though enforcement does not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will be required to receive at least one vaccine dose by September 27, with no option for weekly testing. Employees at city hospitals must also get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. New York State employees are subject to similar rules.
On a federal level. The Pentagon announced that coronavirus vaccinations would be made mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and travel restrictions.

Experts believe that 11 billion doses are required to achieve widespread global immunity. Prior to Wednesday, the US had pledged to donate more than 600 million doses. Mr. Biden’s additional 500 million pledge brings the United States’ total commitment to 1.1 billion doses, more than any other country.

“To put it another way, for every one shot we’ve given to pay in America, we’ve now committed to giving three shots to the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said.

However, activists, global health experts, and world leaders argue that donated doses will not suffice. They are urging the Biden administration to do more to increase global vaccine production, particularly in Africa, where the need is greatest.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversifying production centers around the world,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in his General Assembly speech, citing one of the largest increases in cases. “We understand that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Since Covax’s inception in April 2020, the landscape for getting shots into arms has become increasingly difficult. Tariffs and other trade restrictions have been imposed by some Asian countries on Covid-19 vaccines, slowing their delivery. India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has prohibited coronavirus vaccine exports since April, but officials say they will resume next month.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Biden urged other wealthy nations to follow through on their pledged donations. He also appeared to take a veiled shot at China, which did not attend the summit and has largely sold – rather than donated – its vaccine to other countries.

“We should unite around a few principles: we should commit to donating, not selling — donating, not selling — doses to low- and lower-income countries, and the donations should come with no political strings attached,” the president said.

He also announced a vaccine collaboration with the European Union and stated that the US was working to scale up production overseas through a collaboration with India, Japan, and Australia that was “on track to produce at least 1 billion vaccine doses in India to boost global supply by the end of 2022.”

The doses donated by the Biden administration, on the other hand, have been trickling out gradually. So far, 157 million have been exported. Dr. Peter J. Hotez, an infectious disease expert at Texas Children’s Hospital who helped develop a coronavirus vaccine now manufactured in India, believes the president should have provided a “frank articulation of the magnitude” of the shortage.

“By 2023, we won’t need it,” Dr. Hotez stated. “We require it immediately, within the next six to eight months.”

From New York, Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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