‘Dose of hope’: Biden pushing rich nations to share vaccine

New York, Sept. 22 (BNA): President Joe Biden is poised to push rich nations to do more to control the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, as world leaders, aid groups and global health organizations sound the alarm about the slow pace of global vaccinations.

Biden is holding a virtual vaccine summit on Wednesday, timed to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly this week, to urge more countries to follow in the footsteps of the United States, which has donated more doses than any other country. According to a person familiar with the matter, Biden was ready to announce a significant new purchase of vaccines to share with the world, and set goals for other countries to achieve. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to review Biden’s remarks.

But even the US response has been criticized for being too modest, especially as the Biden administration calls for booster doses to be provided to tens of millions of Americans before vulnerable people in poor countries receive even the first dose, the Associated Press reports.

“We have noted the failures of multilateralism to respond in a fair and coordinated manner to the most acute moments. Colombian President Ivan Duque said the gaps between countries in the vaccination process are unheard of.

In his private remarks at the United Nations, Biden took credit on Tuesday for sharing more than 160 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with other countries, including 130 million surplus doses and the first installments of more than 500 million doses the United States is buying for the rest. From the world.

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“Flights carrying vaccines from the United States have already landed in 100 countries, giving people around the world a small dose of hope, as one American nurse described it to me,” Biden said. “A dose of hope straight from the American people – and most importantly, no restrictions.”

Biden planned to announce additional US commitments on Wednesday and was due to call on the rest of the world to “commit to a higher level of ambition” as well.

But world leaders already made clear that this was not enough. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the “victory” of rapid vaccine development was met with a political “failure” that led to an unfair distribution. “In science cooperation prevailed; in politics and individualism. In science, shared information prevailed; in politics, reserve. In science, teamwork prevailed; in politics, isolated effort,” said Pinera.

The World Health Organization has long decried the inequality in vaccines between rich and poor countries. She says only 15% of the promised donations of vaccines have been delivered – from wealthy countries that have access to large amounts of them. In a statement issued last week looking to the General Assembly, the UN health agency said it wanted countries to honor pledges to share doses “immediately” and make vaccines available to vaccine deployment programs that benefit poor countries and Africa in particular.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted on Monday that his agency wants the UN meeting to help ensure equal vaccines and equal access to COVID-19 tools, improve pandemic preparedness, and renew efforts to achieve UN goals more broadly.

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“We want to see more action on access to doses for countries that really need them,” WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said at a UN news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

COVAX, the UN-backed program to ship vaccines to all countries, rich or poor, has been grappling with a whirlwind in production, shortages in supplies and a rounding of the vaccine market by the rich nations that have hit — and continue to strike. Bilateral deals to buy doses from major pharmaceutical companies.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly called for “solidarity,” urging major drug companies that make vaccines to prioritize and publicize their supply schedules for COVAX, and urging rich nations to avoid widespread rollouts of booster doses so that doses can be made available to health care workers and the vulnerable. people in the developing world. Such calls have been largely ignored.

COVAX has missed nearly all of its vaccine-sharing goals. Its directors have also repeatedly scaled back their ambitions to ship vaccines by the end of this year — from the original goal of about 2 billion doses worldwide to hopes of 1.4 billion now — and even that mark could be missed.

At a press conference last week, Dr. Seth Berkeley, CEO of Gavi, the public-private partnership that runs COVAX, called the program “the largest and most complex vaccine rollout in history” and acknowledged: “I think we all know that the global response has not been as good as enough.”

As of Tuesday, COVAX has shipped more than 296 million doses to 141 countries, with busiest days ahead.

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“I think we’ve shown that COVAX can work at scale, but it’s really time for the world to stand behind it,” Berkeley said.

“The longer the world is divided into have-nots and have-nots, the longer the pandemic continues, more variables can develop, and more deaths and suffering will occur,” said Dr. Maria Guevara of Doctors Without Borders. .

“A year and a half into the pandemic, we are barely close to securing a global response plan,” said Tom Hart, acting CEO of ONE Campaign. “The G7 countries have shown limited political will to address vaccine inequality, even though they have the capacity to do so. The White House Summit is a welcome sign of the kind of leadership we need and provides world leaders with an opportunity for progress and achievement.”

RAE

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