(Bloomberg) – Joe Biden’s first trip abroad as president will focus on strengthening the availability of coronavirus vaccines abroad (in the Western Hemisphere). It’s an attempt to counter China and defuse tensions with allies who are at odds with America’s vaccine buildup and intellectual property rights.
Biden leaves Wednesday for the Group of Seven summit in the UK. He leaves the US, where the pandemic is receding, to discuss how the world’s richest democracies can help the rest of the world end the virus. Both Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson aim to rally the G7 around a plan to make more vaccines available in low-income countries.
Biden and Johnson will meet for the first time on Thursday, before the G7.
The summit will be a show of unity after group members spent much of the year disagreeing over vaccines. Biden angered Europe by continuing Trump-era policies that directed nearly all early US vaccine production to Americans, and by backing a push by low-income countries to waive certain patent protections for vaccines. .
While the G7 countries will surely agree that more vaccines are needed, the details of what they will propose or how it will be funded remain unclear. Johnson has called for the world to be vaccinated by the end of 2022, while Biden announced that the US would be an “arsenal” of vaccines for the rest of the world. However, so far it has only committed 25 million doses of US government reserves.
“The United States addresses the G7 in a position of strength,” Jeff Zients, the Biden government’s covid-19 response coordinator, said in a statement. About 47% of the US population is vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg Covid-19 Tracker, and cases are falling as the economy recovers.
“The President will use this momentum to unite the world’s democracies around solving this crisis on a global level. The US will lead the creation of the vaccine arsenal that will be critical in our global fight against COVID-19, ”said Zients.
Biden’s advisers have anticipated that his trip to Europe will focus on the “three Cs”: Covid-19, China and climate change. After the G7, Biden will attend the NATO and European Union summits in Brussels before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
End the pandemic
At the G7, “he will join his fellow leaders in devising a plan to end COVID-19 with more specific commitments toward that end,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.
Vaccine manufacturers have already pledged to make more than 1 billion doses available to low- and middle-income countries this year. But rich countries wiped out the first supplies and it is not yet clear how the doses will be distributed in the future.
Some countries are receiving doses through the global mechanism Covax (Center for Global Access to Covid-19 Vaccines), an initiative of the World Health Organization that depends in part on donations, while others have requested directly from manufacturers or are receiving shipments from the US and other wealthy nations.
“I would like to see the greatest possible contribution from the G7, because I believe the doses will be available,” said Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The big problem will really be the allocation: where do these doses go?”
Original Note: Biden, Johnson to Rally G-7 for Vaccine Push After US Hoarding
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