Biden calls for wealthy countries to 'step up' in global vaccination effort

Biden calls for wealthy countries to 'step up' in global vaccination effort
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President BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE on Wednesday called on other high-income countries to “step up” in their efforts to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus, as he pointed to new steps the U.S. is taking on a global vaccination push that experts say is lagging.

“The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations,” Biden said as he opened a virtual COVID-19 summit convened by the White House. “As we're doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges.”

He spoke as other world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauCanada's Trudeau apologizes for vacation on first Truth and Reconciliation Day Unvaccinated Canadian government workers to be placed on unpaid leave Canada marks first 'National Day of Truth and Reconciliation' MORE, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres joined him onscreen.

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“The only way to get this done is for everyone, everywhere, is for all of us, to step up, which I’m confident you will,” Biden told the group.

The president pointed to a U.S. donation announced earlier Wednesday of 500 million more Pfizer vaccine doses to the world, coming next year, bringing the total U.S. pledged donation to more than 1.1 billion doses.

The White House is also calling for countries to join in a push to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by the next U.N. General Assembly, in September 2022. 

Some advocates are pushing for the U.S. to go further, not only on donating doses but also in pushing vaccine makers to share technology and know-how with lower-income countries, and to boost global manufacturing of more doses.

Max Hadler, senior policy expert at Physicians for Human Rights, said in a statement Wednesday that vaccine “donations alone will be insufficient without high-income countries pushing pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine know-how.”

Guterres, the U.N. chief, also called out vaccine inequity in his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday.

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“A majority of the wealthier world vaccinated. Over 90 percent of Africans still waiting for their first dose,” he said. “This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity.”

He said the world “urgently” needs a plan to double global vaccine production.

Biden on Wednesday pointed to manufacturing initiatives that have already been announced, including the U.S. working with partners to support the manufacturing of 1 billion doses in India by the end of next year, and 500 million doses in South Africa next year.

Biden called for world leaders to meet again in the first quarter of next year for an update on work to vaccinate the world.

“We're not going to solve this crisis with half measures,” he said. “We need to go big.”