The US and its allies are under pressure to advance the global COVID-19 fight

After a meeting of world leaders, President Biden's first inauguration Friday, frustration and divisions remained as they tried to reach an agreement on more effective international vaccination efforts.

The United States and the Allied Nations are under pressure to step up the global fight against COVID-19, even as the pandemic continues to hit their own citizens. This challenge combines public health needs, high level diplomacy and domestic political risks.

Failure to act quickly would result in unnecessary deaths in countries that cannot develop or afford their own vaccines and increase the likelihood that more dangerous mutations will spread around the world. Leading democratic nations are also concerned about losing diplomatic ground to Russia and China as they seek to expand their influence through the rapid distribution of their vaccines.

The virtual meeting of the Group of Seven Developed Nations disappointed some, despite new promises to support vaccination efforts in poor countries.

The United States announced that it would make $ 4 billion – now $ 2 billion and the rest in the next two years – and Germany increased its total pledge to more than $ 2.5 billion. The UK announced that it would eventually contribute excess vaccines to COVAX, a partnership led by the Gavi International Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and the World Health Organization to vaccinate developing countries.

"Building on our strengths and values ​​as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work and work with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and our planet "So Biden and The other G7 leaders said in a joint statement after their meeting.

However, the contributions miss the target of another member of the group, French President Emmanuel Macron. In a previous interview with the Financial TimesHe said Europe and the United States should quickly deliver 5% of their vaccine supply to low-income countries. He warned that China and Russia would step into nowhere.

"We're bringing up the idea that hundreds of millions of vaccines will be given in rich countries and that we won't start in poor countries," Macron said.

United States Secretary-General António Guterres said this week that vaccine distribution has been "very uneven and unfair," with 75% having only been given in 10 countries so far.

COVAX aims to vaccinate 20% of the population in low-income countries by the end of the year. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the organization still does not have the resources to achieve the goal.

"The funding for this has not yet been secured, not even after the G7 summit," he said.

President Biden and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer walk past freezers holding the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine.

President Biden and Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) Walk past Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine freezers as they tour a Michigan manufacturing facility on Friday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Seth Berkley, the epidemiologist who heads Gavi, stressed that failure to control the pandemic in a single country could allow the development of new variants and subsequent hopscotch around the world. Mutations have already occurred in South Africa, Brazil and the UK and there are concerns that Vaccines may be less effective against them.

"As long as this disease is widespread, it is at risk for people everywhere, including those who are vaccinated," said Berkley.

He said the global community should aim to vaccinate health care workers and people at high risk before vaccinating young and healthy people who are less likely to become seriously ill or die of COVID-19.

MSF also urged the Biden government to start exporting vaccines. "Instead of hoarding cans, the US should share them," the organization said in a statement.

But that's not what happened. Vaccine supplies remain limited, and world leaders carefully stress that their contribution to the global struggle does not delay vaccinations for their own citizens. "No vaccination appointment in Germany is at risk," said Chancellor Angela Merkel.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki shared a similar message with reporters traveling with Air Force One.

"We feel like we are making the American community safer by making the global community safer," she said. "But we are now focused on vaccinating the American people."

After the G-7 meeting, Biden visited Pfizer's 1,300-acre manufacturing facility in Michigan that makes the vaccine, one of two approved for distribution in the United States. One warehouse the President toured contained 350 freezers in which the vaccine could be stored at the extremely cold temperatures required. A company spokeswoman said each freezer held 360,000 cans – enough to vaccinate 180,000 people since the vaccine requires two shots.

All doses are expected to be injected into American guns as Biden promises to end the pandemic in the United States.

"I can't give you a date when this crisis will end," he said. "But I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to ensure that this day comes sooner rather than later."

Even if Biden tries to steer the politics of vaccination efforts at home, he has to consider the diplomatic interventions and friction on the international stage.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, recently asked why Russia exported its vaccine, known as Sputnik V after the legendary Soviet satellite, before vaccinating more of its citizens.

"We still wonder why Russia is theoretically offering billions and billions of doses while vaccinating its own people has not progressed sufficiently," she said at a news conference on Wednesday. "This is a question that should be answered."

The Russian mission in Brussels returned that it doses on the "principle of cooperation in combating the common threat that Russia poses to all members of the international community without exception, regardless of political and economic considerations".

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a meeting of the United States Security Council that rich countries are devouring vaccines while Beijing is devoting itself to spreading these vaccines around the world. China supplies 10 million doses to COVAX and has reportedly donated more to 53 countries.

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