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Biden will push global leaders to vaccinate 70% of the world at upcoming summit

President Joe Biden will call on world leaders to vaccinate 70% of the Earth’s population by next year, according to White House documents. However, setting that goal may prove considerably easier than realizing it.

Biden will host a virtual summit next week for heads of state and leaders from NGOs and the private sector, aimed at rallying these figures to “come together to commit to ending the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to an invitation seen by the Washington Post.

As part of that commitment, Biden will press everyone involved to get at least 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by next September, according to a list of draft targets circulated by the White House. Other goals include boosting the production of vaccines, tests, therapeutics, and protective equipment, creating a ‘Global Health Threats Council’ to respond to future emergencies, and increasing aid flows to lower- and middle-income countries.

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Vaccinating 70% of the world is a lofty goal. The United States itself has yet to hit that target, with just over 60% of the population inoculated. Worldwide, just 43% of people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with coverage in some low-income countries below 2%. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week called this disparity “unacceptable,” blaming “export bans, the prioritisation of bilateral deals by manufacturers and countries, ongoing challenges in scaling up production by some key producers, and delays in filing for regulatory approval.”

Even within the United States, reaching 70% has proven difficult for the Biden administration. After a summer of trying to persuade Americans to roll up their sleeves, the president has turned to more coercive measures, declaring last week that “our patience is wearing thin” as he ordered private companies to require employees to get jabbed or submit to weekly testing. The order, which will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, comes on top of vaccine mandates for federal employees and a call on private businesses to refuse entry to unvaccinated people.

Workers in at least one hospital have already quit over Biden’s latest mandate.

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While vaccination is effective at lowering the risk of hospitalization and death as a result of Covid-19, its efficacy wanes over time, and it does not stop transmission of the disease. Even in countries like Israel, where vaccination is widespread, case numbers are continuing to rise. 

The Biden administration plans on rolling out booster shots of the vaccine later this month, pending regulatory approval. Should other countries follow suit, booster programs could further imperil efforts to get doses to poorer nations.

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