MAGWAN PORTH, England — President Joe Biden joined the leaders of other leading democracies on the white sands of Carbis Bay in England on Friday, posing for the traditional “family photo” and opening their annual Group of Seven summit with meetings focused largely on ending the coronavirus pandemic.
Gathering for the first time in two years after the pandemic caused the cancellation of last year’s planned summit in the United States, the leaders spent their first day seeking to intensify a global push for vaccinations. The heads of state are aiming to donate at least a billion vaccine doses, half from the U.S., to low-income countries where the coronavirus continues to spread.
Biden, eager to show the world on his first overseas trip as president that the United States wants to again play a global leadership role, has committed to purchasing 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donating them to COVAX, the organization managing vaccine distribution efforts around the world. The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the G-7 summit, announced that his nation would be donating 100 million doses.
France and Germany each plan to donate 30 million doses by the end of the year, their leaders said. To achieve the goal, that would leave 340 million doses to be provided by the G-7 members: Canada, Japan, Italy and representatives of the 27-nation European Union.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the group’s commitments and discussions over the three-day summit would show the world that “we’re not just thinking of ourselves.” Merkel, who is just months from the end of her 15-year run as chancellor, will visit Biden at the White House in July, the administration announced Friday.
“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic, working alongside our global partners,” Biden said late Thursday, noting that the donated vaccines, unlike those that Russia and China have distributed to needy nations, come with no conditions or strings attached.
Pressure to help underdeveloped nations has continued to mount on the world’s wealthiest countries, especially as they begin to get the pandemic under control within their borders.
The U.S. will begin shipping doses to other countries in August, with 200 million vaccines expected set to be distributed by year’s end and another 300 million doses in the first half of 2022. Because two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are necessary to inoculate an individual, the U.S. contributions will be enough to vaccinate 250 million people. Several billion people remain unvaccinated worldwide.
Johnson, in a statement, said the commitments from other G-7 member nations were critical in ensuring the world can “build back better from coronavirus,” adopting Biden’s domestic economic slogan for the international agenda. The two leaders had met on Thursday to reaffirm their countries’ long partnership.