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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

At Covid-19 Summit, Joe Biden sets ambitious goals for vaccinating the world

President Joe Biden has been under intense pressure from global health experts to do more to address the vaccine shortage

By: New York Times | Washington |
Updated: September 23, 2021 9:44:37 am
US President Joe Biden speaks during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. (AP)

Written by Sheryl Gay Stolberg

President Joe Biden, declaring the coronavirus an “all-hands-on-deck crisis,” set out ambitious goals Wednesday for ending the pandemic and urged world leaders, drug companies, philanthropies and nonprofit groups to embrace a target of vaccinating 70% of the world by next year.

Biden charted the course at a virtual COVID-19 summit meeting that he convened on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Biden announced a series of actions, including the purchase of an additional 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine at a not-for-profit price to donate overseas and $370 million to administer the shots.

“We’re not going to solve this crisis with half-measures or middle-of-the-road ambitions. We need to go big,” the president said in televised remarks. “And we need to do our part: governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, philanthropists.”

Still, Biden’s summit meeting spurred some resentment toward the United States from those who have criticized the administration for hoarding vaccines and not doing enough to help developing nations manufacture their own.

Biden also faces criticism for offering booster doses to fully vaccinated Americans when millions of people around the world, including health care workers, have yet to receive a first dose. In his speech at the United Nations on Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya said that such inequities were hindering efforts to rebuild the global economy.

“The surest way to building that confidence is by making vaccines available to the world, in an equitable and accessible manner,” Kenyatta said.

Before Wednesday, the United States had promised to donate more than 600 million doses. The additional 500 million that Biden pledged brings the total U.S. commitment to 1.1 billion doses.

But activists, global health experts and world leaders say donated doses will not be enough. They are calling for the Biden administration to do more to scale up global manufacturing of vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversification of production centers across the world,” President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, which has suffered one of the biggest surges in cases, said in his General Assembly speech. “We know that no one is safe until everyone is.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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