Biden hosts a virtual meeting of world leaders to shore up the global Covid response.
President Biden and other world leaders, including António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, are gathering virtually for a small panel discussion on Wednesday to kick off a global summit, convened by the White House, aimed at forging a global consensus around a plan to fight the coronavirus crisis.
The opening discussion, “Call the World to Account and Vaccinate the World,” will be moderated by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Mr. Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations. Participants will include other presidents and prime ministers, including President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.
White House officials have said that Mr. Biden’s message to the group will be that the United States cannot fight the pandemic, or address the global vaccine shortage, on its own. Earlier Wednesday, Pfizer-BioNTech announced that it had struck a deal with the Biden administration to sell the United States an additional 500 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, to be donated to nations that need them.
Drug company executives, philanthropists and leaders of nonprofit organizations have also been invited to the summit, which is being convened by Mr. Biden to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. Administration officials say it is the largest gathering of heads of state to date to address the global pandemic.
Mr. Biden has been under intense pressure from global health experts to do more to address the vaccine shortage. Less than 10 percent of the population of poor nations — and less than 4 percent of the African population — has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Covax, the W.H.O.-backed international vaccine initiative, is behind schedule in delivering shots to the low- and middle-income nations that need them the most.
At a briefing held by Physicians for Human Rights earlier this week, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, sounded a note of urgency and issued a plea for nations to work together to distribute vaccines in a coordinated — and equitable — fashion. She also urged countries to share their excess supplies.
“A country by country approach, a nationalistic approach, is not going to get us out of this pandemic,” she said. “And that’s where we are today.”
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