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The Feasibility Of Biden's Global Vaccination Goal


And now comes the hard part - that's what many global health advocates are saying a day after President Biden held a virtual summit on COVID-19. The president is trying to drum up support for vaccinating 70% of the world's population over the next year, but that will require convincing rich countries to change their priorities when it comes to vaccines. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports on the progress so far.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Right now less than 10% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated against COVID. President Biden tried to jump-start his plan to change that by announcing a major new donation. The U.S. will buy 500 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine for less well-off countries. That brings the total planned U.S. donation to nearly 1.1 billion doses. And it looks like it has spurred at least some other countries to follow suit. Carolyn Reynolds is co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network, an advocacy group that's been tracking donation pledges.

CAROLYN REYNOLDS: Japan committed to an additional 60 million doses. The European Union upped its overall commitment to up to 500 million. So it's a significant step forward in terms of availability of additional doses to close the global vaccine gap.

AIZENMAN: But many advocates worry the timing for delivering these donations will be too slow. Max Hadler is a policy analyst with the group Physicians for Human Rights. He notes that most of these pledges are vague on dates. As for the U.S. donation?

MAX HADLER: The commitments that President Biden made yesterday are starting in 2022.

AIZENMAN: He supports an even more ambitious timeline, like the one called for by the heads of the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Both argued for aiming to vaccinate at least 40% of the world by the end of this year.

HADLER: The clock is ticking on this pandemic and on our ability to vaccinate our way out of the pandemic.

AIZENMAN: Hadler also wants to see governments put more pressure on pharmaceutical companies to share their technological know-how so vaccine manufacturing can be ramped up in the medium term.

HADLER: Urgent donations to redistribute where vaccines are going in the short term is one important step, but we also cannot mathematically reach what we need unless we increase the overall supply of vaccine.

AIZENMAN: And he says that can't happen if the world continues to rely on a small number of pharmaceutical companies for its entire supply.

Nurith Aizenman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF HER'S SONG, "WHAT ONCE WAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.