MAWGAN PORTH, England (AP) – A year ago, the United States was the deadliest hotspot in the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the cancellation of the Group of Seven summit it was scheduled to host. Today, the United States is becoming a model for successfully recovering from more than 15 months of global crisis.
In a speech on Thursday on the eve of the G-7 Wealthy Democracies Summit, President Joe Biden will outline the US plans to donate 500 million doses of the vaccine to the world over the next year, in addition to the 80 million doses he has already promised at the end of the month. U.S. officials have said Biden will also ask his fellow G-7 leaders to do the same.
The United States has faced increasing pressure to present its global vaccine-sharing plan, especially as supply inequalities around the world have become more pronounced and demand for vaccines in the United States has plummeted. abruptly in recent weeks.
“We need to end COVID-19, not just at home – which we are doing – but everywhere,” Biden told the U.S. military on Wednesday during the first leg of an eight-day trip to three countries, his first since taking office. He added that the effort “requires coordinated and multilateral action”.
The new US commitment is to purchase and donate 500 million doses of Pfizer for distribution through the COVAX global alliance to 92 low-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first regular supply of vaccine to MRNA to countries that need it most. The price for the 500 million doses has not been released, but the United States is now expected to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its biggest funder with a $ 4 billion commitment.
The global alliance has so far distributed only 81 million doses and parts of the world, particularly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts. White House officials hope the fast-track distribution program may be the latest example of a theme Biden plans to hit frequently during his week in Europe: that Western democracies, not rising authoritarian states, can bring the most good to the world.
White House officials have said the 500 million vaccines will be shipped from August, with a 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.
“We’re in this position because we’ve had so much success vaccinating Americans at home,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CBS News on Thursday.
After dominating the world in new cases and deaths for much of last year, the rapid vaccination program in the United States now positions it among the leaders in the global recovery. Almost 64% of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the average number of new positive cases and deaths in the United States is lower today than at any time since the first days of the pandemic.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast last week that the U.S. economy would grow at a rate of 6.9 percent this year, making it one of the few countries for which forecasts are more optimistic now than ‘before the pandemic.
U.S. officials hope the summit will end with a statement showing a commitment from G-7 countries and invited nations to participate in doing more to help immunize the world and support global public health.
“I do not anticipate controversy on the issue of vaccines. I anticipate convergence, ”National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday.
Sullivan said G-7 leaders “converge” 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 through the “chain of custody” when the vaccine is produced than when it is injected into someone in the developing world.
Last week, the White House unveiled plans to donate an initial allocation of 25 million doses of excess vaccine overseas, primarily through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for America. South and Central, Asia, Africa and others.
Officials say a quarter of that surplus will be held in reserve for emergencies and that the United States will share directly with its allies and partners, including South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine.
Sullivan noted that Biden had already pledged to turn the United States into a modern-day “arsenal of democracies” for vaccines, but that he also had health reasons to release vaccinations – preventing the rise of variants. potentially dangerous – and geostrategic as well.
China and Russia have shared, with varying success, their locally produced vaccines with some needy countries, often with hidden conditions. Sullivan said Biden “wants to show – by rallying the rest of the world’s democracies – that democracies are the countries that can best offer solutions to people around the world.”
The mRNA vaccines produced in the United States have also been shown to be more effective against the original strain and more dangerous variants of COVID-19 than the more conventional vaccines produced by China and Russia. Some countries that have successfully rolled out these conventional vaccines have nevertheless seen the number of cases increase.
Biden’s decision to buy the doses, officials said, was aimed at preventing them from getting locked up by richer countries that can afford to make purchase deals directly with manufacturers. Last month, the European Commission signed an agreement to purchase up to 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer over the next two years, a significant chunk of the company’s upcoming production – though the bloc was reserved the right to donate some of its doses to COVAX.
Global public health groups have sought to use G-7 meetings to pressure richer democracies to do more to share vaccines with the world. Biden’s plans immediately garnered praise.
Tom Hart, interim CEO of 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 pandemic world “.
“We urge other G-7 countries to follow the lead of the United States and give more doses to COVAX,” he added. “If there has ever been a time for global ambition and action to end the pandemic, it is now. “
Others called on the United States to do even more.
“Charity is not going to win the war against the coronavirus,” said Niko Lusiani, vaccine manager at Oxfam America. “At the current rate of immunization, it would take 57 years for low-income countries to achieve the same level of protection as those in the G-7 countries. This is not only morally reprehensible, it is counterproductive given the risk posed by mutations in the coronavirus. “
Last month, Biden broke with his European allies to approve the lifting of intellectual property rules at the World Trade Organization to promote vaccine production and fairness. But many in his own administration recognize that restrictions were not the root cause of the global vaccine shortage, which has more to do with limited manufacturing capacity and shortages of delicate raw materials.
Miller reported from Washington. Lemire reported from Plymouth, England.