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White House lays out new global targets in coronavirus pandemic fight

President Biden at Long Beach City College, on Sept. 13, 2021, in Long Beach, Calif.
President Biden at Long Beach City College, on Sept. 13, 2021, in Long Beach, Calif.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

President Joe Biden plans to call on global leaders to make new commitments to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including fully vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by next September, according to a list of targets obtained by The Washington Post.

The goals were shared with global health leaders ahead of a virtual summit the White House is scheduled to convene next week, positioning the event as an opportunity to set worldwide objectives to end the pandemic. The targets, which draw on similar goals laid out by the World Health Organization and other global health experts, include providing billions of dollars in tests, oxygen and other supplies to developing countries, and setting up a financing system to pay for the global health response by next year.

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"During the Summit, President Biden will call on chiefs of state, heads of government and international organizations, business, philanthropic, and non-governmental leaders to come together to commit to ending the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a copy of one invitation reviewed by The Post. "Participants will identify concrete actions and set the ambitious targets needed to achieve that goal and prepare the world for future health security threats."

Biden also plans to ask private sector and nongovernmental organizations to commit to solving "one or more specific complex challenges . . . such as addressing the world's oxygen crisis" as part of the event. Attendees, including heads of state, are being asked to record a short video "outlining your commitment to ending COVID-19 in 2022 and building back better global health security to prevent the next pandemic," according to the White House invitation.

The event - the Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better - is slated to be held Sept. 22, during ongoing meetings convened by the U.N. General Assembly, and would kick off a series of planned summits. Follow-up events slated for later this year and early 2022 are intended to hold participants accountable for their commitments, the White House told invitees.

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The White House declined to comment.

Advocates, lawmakers and global health leaders have pressed Biden to take a larger role in the worldwide fight against the coronavirus, after President Donald Trump last year withdrew from global commitments while China and Russia struck deals to share millions of vaccine doses with other countries.

Public health experts have warned that outbreaks overseas are likely to spark new virus variants that could challenge the efficacy of treatments and vaccines.

The WHO last week condemned the disproportionate access to coronavirus vaccines as "unacceptable."

"Only 20% of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries have received a first dose of vaccine compared to 80% in high- and upper-middle income countries," the global health organization said in a statement.

Krishna Udayakumar, director of Duke University's Global Health Innovation Center, said Biden's targets were a "good starting point" to tackle challenges such as ensuring that 70% of the world's population is vaccinated.

"One missing part is leadership and accountability," said Udayakumar, who had pressed the White House to hold the summit. "If the global covid response remains rudderless and fragmented, without real levers for accountability, all the well-meaning commitments in the world will have little impact."

Zain Rizvi, a law and policy researcher at the advocacy organization Public Citizen, said the targets were "important but insufficient," warning that waiting until next year to achieve widespread global vaccination would lead to "millions of new infections, millions of new deaths, and millions of chances for the virus to mutate and escape the protection offered by existing vaccines."

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“We need a real strategy, not just a vague commitment to expand manufacturing,” said Rizvi, who has argued that the White House should immediately share intellectual property that it obtained through a contract with vaccine manufacturer Moderna. “President Biden should marshal the resources of the U.S. government and direct corporations to share technology to help end this pandemic.”