If all goes according to plan, the United States will soon send 80 million doses of Covid vaccine to help countries besieged by the coronavirus, President Biden said on Monday.
But world leaders, experts and advocates warn that much more is needed to prevent the virus from rampaging through much of the world, giving it time to mutate and possibly evolve until it can. escape vaccines.
Activists also joined the cohort of voices calling on the Biden administration to act boldly. “Giving 80 million doses of vaccines without a plan to increase production worldwide is like putting a band-aid on a machete wound,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a longtime AIDS activist.
Mr Biden pledged on Monday that 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – the three approved for use in the United States – would be sent overseas. This corresponds to a supply of approximately 400 million to 500 million doses produced each month. In addition, the United States plans to send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine when it is cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
The number of doses needed to immunize 70% of the world’s population is 11 billion, according to researchers at Duke University. So far, only around 1.7 billion has been produced, analyst firm Airfinity estimated.
And 11 billion may be a conservative estimate, as the global need for vaccines could turn out to be much greater if variants of the virus require booster shots. Key raw materials and equipment remain scarce, and there are marked divisions between officials and experts on how best to expand the international vaccine pool.
The United States supports the patent waiver so more countries can produce vaccines, but experts say technology transfers and expanded access to raw materials mean it would take around six months for more manufacturers to produce vaccines. drugs begin to produce vaccines. EU leaders say lifting export bans would help sooner.
World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday called on vaccine makers to speed up delivery of hundreds of millions of doses for Covax, the international effort to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines . He asked the richer countries to share whatever they could.
“We need the high-income countries, which have contracted much of the immediate global vaccine supply, to share them now,” Dr Tedros said. “I call on manufacturers to publicly commit to helping any country that wants to share its vaccines with Covax to remove contractual barriers in days, not months.”
Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, released a statement on Monday saying Covax will soon complete delivery of 65 million doses, but should have delivered at least 170 million and the effort could be short of 190 million. million doses by the time Group of 7 leaders meet in England in June.
“We have issued repeated warnings about the risks of letting our guard down and leaving low- and middle-income countries without equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapies,” Ms. Fore wrote. “We are concerned that the deadly peak in India is a harbinger of what will happen if these warnings are ignored.”
Mr Biden said the vaccines would be shipped by the end of June, when the United States had enough for all of its citizens.
There is already an overabundance of vaccines in the United States, and Mr Biden and his administration face a different problem: convincing those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated.
Mr Biden’s announcement came after he was slammed in two open letters, one published last week and the other on Monday, which urged him to do more to stop the coronavirus internationally by exporting more doses and increasing manufacturing.
Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, said the Biden administration’s commitment to send the doses was “a very good sign,” but that he was happier with Mr. Biden on Monday that he had put Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, in charge of developing a global strategy, a sign the issue was being taken seriously.
“We will be judged by history,” said Dr Omer. “People will remember how a country responded to a global pandemic not only within its borders but outside.”
Reporting was provided by Bryan Pietsch, Peter S. Goodman, Apoorva Mandavilli, Rebecca Robbins and Matina Stevis-Gridneff.
In early April, Payal Raj accompanied his family to India to renew the visas that allow them to live in the United States. She and her husband waited to be vaccinated, carefully preparing their documents according to the advice of their immigration attorneys.
But the visa itself soon blocked her indefinitely in India, separating her from her husband and daughter in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
“Our family is in crisis,” said Ms. Raj, who is among the thousands of immigrants stranded in India, in part because the Biden administration’s restrictions on most travel from the country mean that holders of Temporary visas are not allowed to re-enter the country. United States. “Every morning is a struggle.”
Ms. Raj’s husband, Yogesh Kumar, chief operating officer of a multinational, lives in the United States on an H-1B visa, a temporary permit for highly technical foreign workers. As dependents, Ms. Raj and their daughter hold H-4 visas, which allow temporary workers to bring their immediate families and must be renewed every three years or so at an embassy or consulate outside the States. United.
Mr Kumar and his daughter Saanvi Kumar renewed their visas, but Ms Raj was asked to submit biometrics and undergo an in-person interview, which would not be completed until after the travel restrictions took effect. two weeks ago.
The restrictions, issued as a devastating outbreak of coronavirus cases have engulfed India in recent weeks, bar Ms Raj and others like her from returning to their homes, families and work in the United States.
Even those exempted from the ban are in limbo as the outbreak has shut down routine services at the US embassy and consulates, leaving many without a clear path to their homes.
The United States has restricted entry to a number of countries, but the most recent ban has had a disproportionate effect on Indians in the United States as Indian citizens demand more than two-thirds of H visas -1B issued each year. Including those on other types of nonimmigrant visas, immigration attorneys estimate that thousands of Indians living in the United States have been affected.
Japan’s economy contracted in the first three months of 2021, continuing to oscillate between growth and contraction as its laborious vaccination campaign threatened to block its recovery even as other major economies appeared poised for rapid growth. .
Since the onset of the coronavirus, Japanese domestic demand has experienced cycles of shrinking and expanding, as cases of the coronavirus have increased and consumers have retreated indoors, and infections have subsequently plummeted and that companies have welcomed customers again.
Currently, Japan is experiencing an upsurge in cases, with much of the country under a state of emergency and deaths on the rise, especially in Osaka. Analysts say the yo-yo business model is unlikely to end until the country immunizes a significant portion of its population, an effort that is only just beginning.
The Japanese economy, third in the world after the United States and China, shrank 1.3% between January and March, an annualized decline of 5.1%. The contraction follows two consecutive quarters of expansion.
Growth exploded in the second half of last year as consumers, who had spent months at home avoiding the virus, crowded into stores and restaurants.
The rebound has largely contributed to pulling the economy out of the first months of the pandemic. But the turnaround is fragile and will be difficult to sustain as long as the country faces the threat of the virus.