Calling it a major milestone, U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the country has shipped President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus pandemic in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 3, 2021.In response to a question from VOA on whether other high-income countries should follow the lead of the United States, the president replied: “I think those countries that have been able to cover their population and have the ability to provide either dollars and/or vaccines for the 100 or so net-poor nations that need help should do so.”  Biden added that some Group of 7 countries, which made such pledges at their recent summit in England, have followed through.”We’ve kept the commitment that we would do what we said, which is more than all the rest of the countries combined this far,” the president noted.  Tom Hart, acting chief executive officer of the ONE campaign, a global organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, agreed with Biden’s call for other prosperous countries to do more.  “The U.S. is leading the global COVID-19 fight, but the rest of the world must step up to the plate and match the Biden administration’s ambition and action. With COVID-19 raging globally and new variants emerging constantly, wealthy countries face a clear choice: Share more doses and shorten the pandemic or continue to hoard doses and prolong COVID-19 indefinitely,” Hart said in a statement.  A September summit that the U.S. president plans to host “must be a turning point, with new, additional commitments to get vaccines to everyone and address the devastating economic impact of COVID-19. Everyone is on the hook to deliver,” Hart added.  “The Biden administration’s efforts to share excess vaccine doses with other countries will save lives and help end the pandemic faster in the U.S. and around the world,” Sean Simons, press secretary for the ONE Campaign, told VOA. “We won’t end this pandemic anywhere unless we beat it everywhere.” FILE – Members of the Armed Forces queue at the CCK Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires to be inoculated against COVID-19 with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine obtained through the COVAX scheme, on June 15, 2021.Most of the U.S. vaccine doses have been shipped through the World Health Organization-managed COVAX cooperative, as well as through regional partnerships such as the African Union and Caribbean Community.  Biden said that his administration has fulfilled its pledge to give at least 80 million vaccine doses to other nations around the globe and that they are a down payment on hundreds of millions of more doses that the United States will deliver in the coming weeks. “Starting at the end of this month, the administration will begin shipping a half a billion Pfizer doses that the United States has pledged to purchase and donate to 100 low-income countries in need,” according to a White House statement.  The president’s announcement comes amid an increase in infections in the United States and around the world, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.  During the past month, average daily new cases of COVID-19 in the United States have surged above 85,000. That is higher than the peak seen last summer and is at a level not seen since mid-February of this year.  Biden, in his Tuesday remarks, criticized moves by some U.S. states to forbid mask mandates.  “As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who cannot get vaccinated,” the president noted. “Some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be masked or vaccinated.”  Biden called such edicts disappointing and said if governors “aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it.”  The president repeated his appeal for governors to help, “but if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way. The people are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”  Governors opposing mask mandates say it should be a matter of individual choice. They also claim such mandates are not enforceable nor do they encourage more people to be vaccinated. 
 

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