Biden takes first tentative steps to address global vaccine shortage

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Biden takes first tentative steps to address global vaccine shortage
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Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael Crowley,

New York Times Service

March 13, 2021 | 10:44 AM

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.

In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.

That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months as Americans clamor for their shots.

The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.

Insisting that Americans come first, the president has so far refused to make any concrete commitments to give away U.S.-made vaccines, even as tens of millions of doses of the vaccine made by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca sit idly in U.S. manufacturing facilities.

“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Biden said this week. “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1 and that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult.

Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.

Still, Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort.

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