Biden touts lead role in vaccinating the world as Delta variant surges

By AFP   August 3, 2021 | 06:35 pm PT
Biden touts lead role in vaccinating the world as Delta variant surges
A batch of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine gifted by the U.S. via the Covax mechanism arrives in Vietnam July 25, 2021. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
The United States has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas, more than all other countries combined, with Vietnam among major recipients, President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

The announcement, which follows the administration belatedly achieving its July 4 target for getting 70 percent of American adults at least one shot, marked "just the beginning" of U.S. efforts to help the world battle the pandemic, the White House said.

"As of today, we have shipped over 110 million doses to 65 nations," Biden said in a national address.

"These vaccine donations from America are free. We're not selling," he added. "There's no favoritism and no strings attached. We're doing this to save lives. That's it."

Since it began in late 2019 the coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 4.2 million people globally, including 613,679 people in the United States, which is the worst-affected nation.

The availability of vaccines saw the daily toll of new cases drop dramatically in many countries earlier this year, but the highly contagious Delta variant has since been driving surging infections.

The United States has shipped 111.7 million doses mostly through the international vaccine distribution system known as Covax, but also in conjunction with organizations such as the African Union and the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.

"According to the United Nations, this is more than the donations" of all other countries combined, Biden added.

Major recipients of donated vaccine shots include Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Africa.

Vietnam has received 5 million doses while the Philippines was give 6,239,000 doses, followed by Colombia with 6 million, South Africa 5,660,000, and Bangladesh and Pakistan 5.5 million each.

Starting late this month, the United States will begin sending 500 million Pfizer doses that it has pledged to buy and donate to 100 low-income countries.

Even as the United States stepped up its bid to send shots overseas Biden again appealed to Americans to get vaccinated, warning that the virus is "moving like wildfire through the unvaccinated community."

"It's heartbreaking, particularly because it's preventable," he said.

As cases rise the inoculation drive is slowly picking up steam again after slumping for several months, especially in traditionally conservative areas such as the South and Midwest and among young people, poor people and ethnic minorities.

But in a country where both masks and vaccines have become politicized, Biden also called on local authorities such as Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida -- which is once again a virus hotspot -- to stop blocking businesses and schools from implementing mask mandates.

"If you aren't going to help at least get out of the way of the people that are trying to do the right thing," he said.

Disney, Google, Facebook

Biden highlighted recent vaccination mandates imposed by corporate America on employees, and an upward trend in inoculation rates, particularly in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus.

Disney, Google, Walmart and Facebook have said they will obligate employees to get vaccinated -- as has Tyson Foods, which was forced to close many of its meatpacking plants early in the pandemic after its frontline workers were exposed.

Meanwhile New York City announced Tuesday it would require proof of vaccination for people attending indoor venues such as restaurants, gyms and shows.

Biden has seen his approval rating drop recently, although it remains above 50 percent.

He is looking to seize back the initiative after a difficult week in which the nation's top health authority changed course to recommend that vaccinated people mask up again indoors in areas of high Covid transmission.

The White House has also been criticized for inaction as a moratorium on evictions expired, leaving millions of American facing the possibility of homelessness as the pandemic rages.

The nationwide ban was intended to extend until September, but a recent Supreme Court ruling meant it had to end early unless renewed by Congress, which failed to do so.

Biden said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to have an announcement on a possible extension on the moratorium shortly, suggesting that even if it is struck down by the Supreme Court it will still "give some additional time" to distribute billions in aid which has already been sent to states.

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