US touts lead role in vaccinating the world as Delta variant surges
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Washington (AFP) –
The United States said Tuesday it has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas -- more than all other countries combined -- as President Joe Biden touts his record on countering the Delta variant cutting a deadly swath across the planet.
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.
The outbreak has killed at least 4.2 million people, with the United States, where 613,679 people have died, the worst-affected nation.
The availability of vaccines saw the daily toll of new cases drop dramatically in many countries through the spring, but the highly contagious Delta variant has since been driving surging infections.
Biden was due to deliver remarks at 1945 GMT on a "critical piece of his strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic: stopping the spread of the virus abroad," the White House statement said.
The United States has shipped 111.7 million doses to 60 countries, 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 and reflects the generosity of the American spirit," the White House 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.
The administration said it does not use vaccines to curry favor with other countries and wants simply to save lives, while China and Russia have been accused of engaging in so-called "vaccine diplomacy."
Biden was expected to again appeal to Americans to get vaccinated, as the inoculation drive picks up steam after slumping early this summer.
- Disney, Google, Facebook -
He will highlight recent vaccination mandates imposed by corporate America on employees, an upward trend in vaccination rates, particularly in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus, and strong efforts by local authorities to fight the pandemic, an administration official said.
Tech and entertainment giants such as Disney, Google and Facebook have said they will obligate employees to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile New York City announced Tuesday it would require proof of vaccination for people attending indoor venues such as restaurants, gyms and shows, making it the first major US city to introduce a vaccine pass.
Biden initially set July 4, Independence Day in the United States, for at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of adults, but vaccination rates declined precipitously, especially in traditional conservative areas such as the South and Midwest and among young people, poor people and ethnic minorities.
Vaccination rates are rising again, however, especially in areas hit hard by the virus.
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.
And the White House was criticized for inaction as a moratorium on evictions expired, leaving millions of American facing the possibility of homelessness as the pandemic rages.
© 2021 AFP