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Biden’s Covid Summit aims to strengthen the fight against the pandemic

by YAR

With President Biden set to convene his second Covid-19 summit on Thursday, the White House has secured more than $3 billion in pledges from other countries and philanthropic organizations to fight the coronavirus pandemic, even as Congress has rejected Biden’s request for an additional emergency. help, senior Biden administration officials said.

The meeting is aimed at reinvigorating the international response to the coronavirus crisis at a time when vaccination and testing rates are lagging, and many nations are looking to put the pandemic behind them. Global health experts, officials and activists said this week that the world needed to prepare for the possibility of another deadly variant.

“We have to end the complacency about this, to make sure people realize that if we don’t act, another variant is a possibility, and we don’t know how deadly it could be,” said Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister. Briton, who is now the World Health Organization’s ambassador for global health financing, said in an interview this week.

Mr. Biden has asked Congress for $22.5 billion, including $5 billion to fight the global pandemic, in emergency coronavirus aid, but the proposal is stalled on Capitol Hill even as Congress scrambles to approve $40 billion in coronavirus aid. emergency for Ukraine. Lawmakers are still scrambling to figure out how to move forward on a stripped-down $10 billion coronavirus package. A group of former heads of state, including Mr. Brown and Nobel laureates, called this week for Congress to comply with Mr. Biden’s request.

The Biden administration will contribute a relatively small amount of money at the meeting: $200 million for a World Bank fund to prepare for future pandemics and $20 million for pilot projects to bring coronavirus testing and treatment to poor countries, according to senior officials. , who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the meeting.

And the United States will also make a major nonmonetary commitment: The National Institutes of Health has agreed to license its “stabilized spike protein technology,” a crucial component of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, to companies through the Fund. Drug Patents. The organization is a global non-profit organization supported by the World Health Organization that works to bring medicines to low- and middle-income countries at low cost.

The move is significant because it can lay the groundwork for other countries and companies to share their technologies, said Peter Maybarduk, who heads the global access to medicines program for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

While the United States has donated hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine to poor countries, it has been less aggressive in sharing technology.

“One of the terrible injustices and major impediments of this pandemic has been the exclusive control of critical medical technology,” Mr. Maybarduk said. By working with the Drug Patent Fund, he said, the Biden administration “will not only share doses, but it will share knowledge, from the point of view that sharing doses is charity and sharing knowledge is justice.”

Thursday’s meeting will take place in a very different climate from the first Covid-19 summit, last September. The war in Ukraine is sapping the energy and money of donor nations. The global vaccination campaign is stalled. Testing has been drastically reduced around the world. Antiviral pills for covid are now available in the United States, but remain in short supply in low- and middle-income nations.

“We remain woefully behind in our efforts to vaccinate the world, with less than 13 percent of people in low-income countries having received two Covid vaccines,” Gayle Smith, who led the Department’s global Covid response. of State under Biden and is now the executive director of One Campaign, an advocacy organization, said Wednesday. She added: “That the United States does not come to the table with funds to offer tomorrow is very concerning.”

The summit is being hosted by Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. Mr. Biden will address attendees in pre-recorded remarks and Vice President Kamala Harris will be the main representative of the United States. Global health organizations, philanthropies and drug manufacturers will also participate.

In preparing for the meeting, senior administration officials said, the White House asked participants to make “major commitments of all kinds.” Countries such as Canada, Korea, Spain and France would make financial commitments, they added. Some low-income nations will commit to accelerating their vaccination campaigns, and some drugmakers will agree to consider setting lower prices for treatments.

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