President Joe Biden on Wednesday gathered world leaders virtually to discuss a plan for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 4 million people globally, announcing the U.S. would donate another half billion doses of Pfizer vaccine to lower-income nations.
The White House's stated goal for the summit, happening at the same time as the U.N. General Assembly, was to get world leaders to commit to increasing vaccination rates, making live-saving measures more widely available globally and aligning global targets for fighting the pandemic.
Despite the fact that White House officials told reporters Tuesday night that Biden would call on world leaders to commit to reaching a 70% vaccination goal by September 2022, he did not mention the goal in his opening remarks, and the White House has yet to achieve a 70% vaccination rate across the U.S., despite the wide availability of vaccines for months.
"This summit is about supercharging our efforts in three key areas: vaccinating the world by dramatically ramping up vaccine production, donations, delivery and administering the vaccine which is a logistical challenge," Biden said.
Biden committed American resources to tackle those logistical problems and ramp up vaccinations.
"The United States is buying another half billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low- and middle-income countries around the world. This is another half a billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year, and it brings our total commitment of donations -- of donated vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated."
Biden made a point of thanking Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla, lavishing him with praise. A New York Times report from Wednesday said Moderna has refused to cooperate with the administration on producing doses at-cost for donation around the world.
Biden noted that figure means that for every shot given in the U.S., the U.S. will have donated three doses elsewhere. The U.S. will also partner with the European Union in a vaccine partnership that will expand global vaccinations, especially through vaccine donations.
The president also committed to helping scale manufacturing capacity for vaccines across the world.
"For example, our Quad-partnership with India, Japan and Australia is on track to help produce at least one billion vaccine doses in India to boost the global supply by the end of 2022. And we're providing financing and helping to strengthen manufacturing in South Africa, and produce more than 500 million doses of J&J in Africa -- for Africa -- next year," Biden said.
Biden failed to mention though that a major South African lab will only be bottling the vaccine, not making the vaccine itself, nor the fact that the Indian government blocked export of vaccine from India to South Africa months ago in order to focus on its own outbreak. These examples belie Biden's claims that the administration is facilitating a ramp up on manufacturing around the world.
"We’re not going to solve this crisis with half measures, or middle of the road, ambitions. We need to go big," Biden said. "And we need to do our part, governments, the private sector, civil society, leaders, philanthropists. This is an all hands on deck crisis."
The president has also directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to monitor the progress of other countries by convening foreign ministers later this year. He also proposed continued global summits on COVID-19 to ensure progress.
"We can do this," Biden said. "We can do this. We have to do this."