Biden’s Covid Summit

New York Timses newsletter

At the opening of a virtual Covid-19 summit organized with the U.N., President Biden called on world leaders, pharmaceutical executives, philanthropists and civil society organizations to forge a global consensus around a plan to fight the coronavirus crisis.

“We need to go big,” Biden said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck crisis.”

The president pointed to two especially urgent challenges: vaccinating the world and solving a global oxygen shortage, which is leading to unnecessary Covid deaths.

But the task is daunting. Less than 10 percent of the population of poor nations — and less than 4 percent of the African population — has been fully vaccinated. Covax, the W.H.O.-backed international vaccine initiative, is behind schedule in delivering shots to the nations that need them the most.

Health officials in the U.S. and abroad are now ratcheting up pressure on Pfizer and Moderna to do more to address the global shortage — including sharing their formulas with manufacturers in nations that desperately need more shots.

Global health advocates say Moderna has a special obligation to share its technology because its vaccine relies in part on technology developed by the National Institutes of Health. The company also accepted $2.5 billion from the federal government as part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s fast-track vaccine initiative.

Earlier today, Pfizer announced that it had struck a deal with the Biden administration to sell the U.S. an additional 500 million doses of its vaccine at a not-for-profit price to donate overseas, rather than license its technology.

Some legal experts say the Biden administration could try to force the companies to share their intellectual property, using the powers of the Defense Production Act. But Biden administration officials say that would lead to a drawn-out legal battle, which would be counterproductive.

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