Biden touts lead role in vaccination

The United States has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas — more than all other countries combined, 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 US 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.

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.


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