biden: Biden marks 1 million US Covid deaths, to co-host 2nd global summit

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will appeal for a renewed international commitment to attack Covid-19 as he convenes a second virtual summit on the pandemic and marking 1 million dead in the United States.
“As a nation, we must not become numb with such grief,” Biden said in a statement. “To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”
The president called on Congress to make more money available for testing, vaccines and treatments, something lawmakers have so far refused to provide.
The lack of funding — Biden has requested an additional $22.5 billion of what he calls much-needed money — is a reflection of the faltering determination at home that is jeopardizing the global response to the pandemic.
Eight months after he used the first such summit to announce an ambitious pledge to donate 1.2 billion doses of vaccine to the world, the urgency of the US and other countries to respond has ebbed.
The momentum for vaccinations and treatments has waned, even as more infectious variants rise and billions of people around the world remain unprotected.
The White House said Biden will address the opening of the virtual summit Thursday morning with pre-recorded remarks and said tackling Covid-19 “must remain an international priority.” The US will host the summit together with Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and Belize.
The US has shipped nearly 540 million doses of vaccine to more than 110 countries and territories, according to the State Department — far more than any other donor country.
After the delivery of more than 1 billion vaccines to the developing world, the problem is no longer that there are not enough shots, but a lack of logistical support to get doses into weapons. According to government data, more than 680 million donated vaccine doses have been left unused in developing countries because they were soon to expire and could not be delivered quickly enough. By March, 32 poorer countries had used less than half of the Covid-19 vaccines sent to them.
U.S. aid to promote and facilitate vaccinations abroad dried up earlier this year, with Biden asking about $5 billion for the effort for the remainder of the year.
“We have tens of millions of unclaimed doses because countries don’t have the resources to build out their cold chains, which are basically the cooling systems; fighting disinformation; and to hire vaccinators,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week. She added that the summit “will be an opportunity to highlight the fact that we need additional funding to be part of this effort around the world.”
“We will continue to fight here for more funding,” Psaki said. “But we will continue to urge other countries to do more to help the world move forward.”
Congress has objected to the price tag for Covid-19 aid and has so far refused to accept the package amid political opposition to the impending end of pandemic-era migration restrictions on the US-Mexico border. Even after a brief consensus on virus funding emerged in March, lawmakers decided to halt global aid funding and focus aid solely on bolstering U.S. stocks of vaccine booster shots and therapies.
Biden has warned that without Congressional action, the US could lose access to the next generation of vaccines and treatments, and that the nation will not have enough booster doses or the antiviral drug Paxlovid later this year. He is also sounding the alarm that more variants will emerge if the US and the world don’t do more to contain the virus worldwide.
“To beat the pandemic here, we have to beat it everywhere,” Biden said at the first global summit last September.
The virus has killed more than 995,000 people in the US and at least 6.2 million people worldwide, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Demand for Covid-19 vaccines has fallen in some countries as infections and deaths have declined worldwide in recent months, especially as the omicron variant has been shown to be less severe than previous versions of the disease. For the first time since its inception, the UN-backed COVAX effort has “sufficient supply to enable countries to meet their national vaccination targets,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the vaccine alliance Gavi, who heads COVAX.
Despite more than 65% of the world’s population having received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, less than 16% of people in poor countries have been immunized. Countries are highly unlikely to meet the World Health Organization target of vaccinating 70% of all people by June.
In countries like Cameroon, Uganda and Ivory Coast, officials are struggling to get enough refrigerators to carry vaccines, send enough syringes for mass campaigns and get enough health workers to inject the injections. Experts also point out that more than half of the health workers needed to administer the vaccines in poorer countries are either underpaid or not paid at all.
Donating more vaccines, critics say, would miss the point entirely.
“It’s like donating a bunch of fire trucks to countries that are on fire but have no water,” said Ritu Sharma, vice president of the charity CARE, which has helped immunize people in more than 30 countries, including India, South -America. Sudan and Bangladesh.
“We can’t give countries all these vaccines, but they can’t use them,” she said, adding that the same infrastructure that got the injections in the US is now needed elsewhere. “We had to address this problem in the US, so why not use that knowledge now to get vaccines to the people who need them most?”
Sharma said more investment is needed to counter vaccine hesitancy in developing countries where there are deep-seated beliefs about the potential dangers of Western-made drugs.
“Leaders must agree to adopt a coherent strategy to end the pandemic rather than a fragmented approach that will extend the life of this crisis,” said Gayle Smith, CEO of The ONE Campaign.
Berkley of GAVI also said countries are increasingly asking for the more expensive messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are not as readily available as the AstraZeneca vaccine, which made up the bulk of COVAX’s supply last year.
The emergence of variants such as delta and omicron has led many countries to switch to mRNA vaccines, which appear to offer more protection and which are in demand globally than traditionally made vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Novavax or those from China and Russia.

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