Biden to Call for Vaccine Conference at UN Amid Shot Scarcity
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden plans to call for a meeting on global vaccine supply to be held at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, as wealthy nations face pressure to do more to bolster inoculations for developing countries, according to people familiar with the matter.
Biden intends to host a session during the UN meetings, though the scope and the attendees aren’t yet clear. While the U.S. has been reaching out to other countries about participating in the session, it hasn’t finalized its plans, the people said.
The president has praised the American record on shipments while previous attempts to marshal widespread donations have yielded mixed results.
The U.S. has pledged to donate more than 600 million doses globally by the end of June 2022, and has shipped 140 million so far, though is under pressure from advocates who say that’s not enough. Billions of doses are needed to vaccinate the world and slow both the spread of the coronavirus and the development of more dangerous variants.
Biden’s administration is still planning his schedule around the UN meetings, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The U.S. is interested in events related to public health and the pandemic, and expects opportunities for Biden to speak with counterparts about it then, the official added.
The White House declined to comment on whether Biden would propose a vaccine gathering. The news was reported earlier by the Washington Post.
The Group of Seven nations announced a push in June to donate 1 billion new doses, though ultimately pledged only 613 million, including 500 million from the U.S.
Covax, the global vaccine sharing program, slashed its supply forecast this week, saying it would receive 1.4 billion doses by the end of the year, instead of the 1.9 billion it expected as of June.
Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown Law professor and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law & Human Rights, called on wealthy nations to pledge donations of as much as 10 billion doses in six months. He also urged Biden to do more to transfer vaccine technologies and licenses to developing nations so that they can begin their own production, though that process is time-consuming.
“If we’re going to meet this moment, this once in a century moment, we have to do what we’ve never dreamed before,” Gostin said. He urged Biden to focus on production of messenger RNA vaccines because it’s easier to scale up their production, and downplayed the G-7 pledge. “I was totally underwhelmed by the G-7 announcement; it didn’t make a dent. The inequities have not gotten better.”
Wealthy countries are beginning to roll out booster shots that will further sap supply. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director-general, on Wednesday called for a moratorium on boosters until at least year-end, adding that manufacturers prioritizing deals with richer nations had left low-income countries “deprived of the tools to protect their people.”
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