US President Joe Biden addressed a Covid-19 summit of world leaders Wednesday with a promise to donate a “historic” extra 500 million vaccines to countries struggling to overcome the pandemic.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis,” Biden said. “America will become the arsenal for vaccines as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II.”
“We’ve already shipped 160 million of these doses to 100 countries,” Biden said. “For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we’ve now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.”
Biden is also challenging world leaders to vaccinate 70 percent of every country by September 2022, the White House said in a statement.
Biden stressed that the surge of vaccines must only be donated, with no “political” strings attached — a veiled dig at China in particular.
The United States and other wealthy countries have been criticized by the World Health Organization for their plans to roll out booster shots for elderly and high-risk populations, while much of the world faces a severe shortage in doses.
On Tuesday, in his first speech to the United Nations as president, Biden told delegates that Washington had put more than $15 billion towards the global Covid response.
Despite the development of safe and highly effective vaccines in record-breaking time, huge disparities exist between countries with ample supply and others that have barely begun their immunization campaigns.
The summit — technically held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly — saw Biden and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosting a wide variety of health and foreign leaders.
The head of Gavi, the vaccine alliance working to distribute shots to poor countries, also attended.
On vaccines, the White House is asking governments to “close the financing and supply gap for low-income countries (LICs)/ low middle-income countries (LMICs) to reach 70 percent coverage” by next year’s UN General Assembly, it said in a statement.
Some 4.7 million people worldwide have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.
Originally published as Biden says US donating ‘historic’ extra 500 million Covid vaccines