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 emerging from more than 15 months of global crisis.
For President Joe Biden, who meets with leaders of the wealthy G-7 democracies on his first trip abroad since taking office, it is a personal justification for his promise to reverse the American virus, but also a call to action to enlist other countries in the global struggle.
In a speech on the eve of the summit, Biden will unveil his plans to donate 500 million doses of vaccine globally over the next year on Thursday, in addition to the 80 million he has already pledged by now. the end of the month. U.S. officials have said Biden will also include a direct request to his fellow G-7 leaders to do the same.
“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 his eight-day trip to three countries, adding that the ‘effort’ requires coordinated and multilateral action.
“There isn’t a wall high enough to protect us from this pandemic or the next biological threat we face – and there will be more,” he added.
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.
The US’s new 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 United States is now expected to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its largest 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.
After dominating the world in new cases and deaths for much of last year, the rapid vaccination program in the United States now positions the country 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 now than at any time since the early days of the pandemic.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development last week predicted 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 the commitment of G-7 countries and other urged nations to do 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. “Because we all converge on the idea that we need to increase vaccine supply in several ways: by sharing more of our own doses – and we’ll have more to say about it; help increase manufacturing capacity around the world – we’ll have more to say about that; and, of course, doing what is necessary along the chain of custody, from the time the vaccine is produced until it enters someone’s arms in the developing rural world, and we’ll have more to say about it. “
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 “arsenal of democracies” for vaccines, but the country also has health reasons for spreading vaccinations – preventing the rise of potentially dangerous variants. – 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 an increase in cases.
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 this week’s G-7 meetings to pressure the country’s wealthiest democracies to do more to share vaccines with the world, and Biden’s plans have immediately aroused praise for this purpose.
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 ever was a time for global ambition and action to end the pandemic, it is now.”
But 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.