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Biden to call for global summit on COVID response

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President Joe Biden speaks during an event to celebrate labor unions on Wednesday. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

The Biden administration is expected to propose an international summit focused on the Covid-19 pandemic response and global vaccination effort, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The summit would be timed around United Nations General Assembly meetings slated for the week of Sept. 20, and involve discussions aimed at better coordinating the world’s coronavirus fight across a range of areas.

Among the topics up for discussion are ways to improve vaccine manufacturing and distribution and ramp up the supplies of oxygen to countries in need, and the possibility of international cooperation on research and development related to Covid-19.

President Joe Biden is likely to call for the summit as part of a broader speech on Thursday detailing new initiatives designed to end the pandemic. Though Biden is expected to focus much of his speech on the domestic coronavirus response, people familiar with the matter said he will also emphasize the need for greater global cooperation and work toward addressing inequities in developing countries.

A senior administration official said that while Biden’s schedule at the U.N. is still being firmed up, “it is safe to assume we are actively looking at Covid-19 and public-health centered options. I would anticipate there will be an opportunity for the president to engage with his counterparts on this issue.”

The Washington Post first reported plans for the summit.

The Biden administration has notified some countries that it plans to propose the conference, one person familiar with the matter said, but has yet to send out formal invitations. It was also unclear on Wednesday whether the U.S. would make additional commitments to donate vaccine doses abroad, though the possibility was discussed in recent days.

The White House has for months touted its commitment to ending the pandemic around the globe, and vowed to make the U.S. an “arsenal of vaccines” for the world.

Still, global health experts have criticized the administration for not taking more aggressive steps to help developing nations rapidly vaccinate front-line workers and their most vulnerable.

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