Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials Previewing the Global Summit to End COVID-19
(September 21, 2021)
6:03 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Good evening, everyone, and thanks for joining us today. Tonight’s call is going to be on background, attributed to “senior administration officials.” And contents are going to be embargoed until 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow.
We have two speakers joining us today who will make opening comments, and then we’re happy to take your questions. I’ll turn it over to our first speaker, [senior administration official], and then we’ll hear from our second speaker, [senior administration official].
[Senior administration official], over to you to get started.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. And thanks for being with us tonight.
Tomorrow, President Biden will bring world leaders and private and non-profit sectors together for a summit on COVID-19.
In a moment, I’ll turn to [senior administration official] who’s going to walk through the summit in greater detail. But first, I wanted to discuss an unprecedented global vacci- — our unprecedented global vaccination effort and a major announcement the President will make tomorrow that will drive additional progress.
So, since day one, President Biden has been clear that the only way to defeat COVID-19 and protect the American people and grow the American economy is to defeat the virus both here at home and around the world. That means vaccinating our own people and vaccinating people around the world is not a choice, it is an imperative. That’s why we have mobilized a whole-of-government effort to do both.
So far, the United States has committed to donating over 600 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world. That includes 500 million Pfizer doses that we purchased earlier this summer to donate to 100 countries in need — the largest donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country ever.
Overall, we have now shipped nearly 160 million of these doses to 100 countries around the world — from Peru to Pakistan, Sri Lanka to Sudan, El Salvador to Ethiopia.
To put this into perspective, the United States has now delivered more free doses than every other country in the world combined. Millions more get shipped each day, including today. And importantly, our donations come with zero strings attached.
So, tomorrow, President Biden will announce that the U.S. is purchasing an additional 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to donate to low- and lower-middle income countries around the world.
These half a billion vaccines will be made here in the United States by American workers. They’ll start shipping out in January. And that means from January through September of next year, we will ship out 800 million vaccines to the world.
This new commitment will bring our total to over 1.1 billion vaccines donated to the world. The United States — let me repeat that: The United States is donating 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the world, free of charge, no strings attached.
This is a huge commitment by the U.S. In fact, for every one shot we have administered in this country to date, we are now donating three shots to other countries. One shot here today; three shots committed for the world. No other country, or group of countries, have come close to that.
Our global donations are made possible in part because of the aggressive actions that the President took to accelerate manufacturing and production lines in the United States and the work we have done with U.S. manufacturers to vastly increase that vaccine supply for the rest of the world.
We know that additional steps will be needed to help vaccinate the world, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re working to further leverage U.S. manufacturing and production capabilities. We’re investing in raw materials needed to make vaccines. And we’re helping fuel production at home and abroad.
Working with our partner nations, pharmaceutical companies, and other manufacturers, we’re working to build vaccine manufacturing production capacity and capabilities here and abroad.
You know, the President’s strategy from day one has been to take care of Americans and to help vaccinate the world. And that’s why even as we mounted an unprecedented domestic vaccination program here, we purchased 500 million vaccine doses for the sole purpose of giving them to others.
And today, the — tomorrow, sorry — the President will be doubling that commitment, purchasing 1 billion doses for others even as we continue to vaccinate Americans and prepare for the potential booster shots here.
We’re proving that you can take care of your own while helping others as well. We can and we must do both.
This is a global pandemic, as we all know, and it will require a global response. And at tomorrow’s summit, you’ll hear from the President call on global leaders to step up, act with urgency to stamp out the virus everywhere. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also in all of our interests.
And the U.S. will continue to lead the global vaccination effort, and we will not stop until we get this job done.
Let me stop there and turn it over to [senior administration official] who’s going to walk through some of the other summit details.
Thanks. Over to you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official], and thanks everyone. So, tomorrow, President Biden will convene heads of state and leaders from international organizations, the private sector, philanthropies, non-governmental organizations, and other partners from around the world for the global COVID-19 Summit focused on ending the pandemic and building back better.
This will be a virtual summit held on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly. The President will call on world leaders to elevate the global level of ambition to end the COVID pandemic in 2022 and to build back better health security to prevent and prepare for future pandemics.
As [senior administration official] said, tomorrow’s summit is about the global level of ambition to end the pandemic, and everyone must do their part everywhere. We’re nearly 20 months into the pandemic, and this moment really requires urgency to save lives. This is a summit on an issue that affects absolutely everyone on a daily basis, everywhere on Earth. And it’s a meeting to set the agenda.
Our goals for the summit are clear: We’re calling on world leaders and all sectors to do more collectively, measurably, on three specific areas.
First, we need to vaccinate the world. And [senior administration official] just spoke about the United States’ historic and huge commitment in this area, and we need all countries to do as much as they can. This includes enhancing equitable access to vaccines and also getting shots into arms.
Second, we need to save lives now by solving the global oxygen crisis, making tests and therapeutics more available, and enhancing access to personal protective equipment.
Third, we need to build back better, which means preparing for the next pandemic by establishing a sustainable health security financing mechanism and ensuring we have the political leadership we need for emerging threats.
Running through all of these themes, we’ll be focusing on accountability — accountability for achieving specific targets against each of these goals. We need to align around common goals and targets to hold ourselves and the world accountable for collective action to end the pandemic and, obviously, to prepare for the next.
And as [senior administration official] outlined, the United States is doing its part and stepping up again, but we cannot do this alone. Every country — every one — has to hold themselves accountable for fulfilling commitments they’ve made and for surging resources to do what’s required to end the pandemic, vaccinate the world, save lives now, and build back better.
In the run-up to the event, we sent a list of targets across all of these areas to participants for the summit, and we encouraged them to consider embracing this vision. And we included also a set of asks for governments and private sector leaders to consider for this fall, which will get us closer to ending this pandemic and building better capacity around the world for the future.
Importantly, these are global targets. And again, the United States cannot and should not achieve them alone. Everyone has to be accountable. The targets are deliberately ambitious — because we’re 18 months into the pandemic, and if now isn’t the moment to be bold, when would we be?
These targets build on and were developed in concert with targets from the Multilateral Leaders Taskforce on COVID-19, which is a group of the WHO — the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Also, the access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT) A, G20 and G7 goals, and also goals set by members of various expert panels.
This also includes an ambitious target, which will require all countries to step up so that every country, including low-income and low-middle-income countries, can achieve 70 percent vaccinations before UNGA of next year.
So what exactly is going to happen tomorrow? It’s a virtual summit that will last for almost four hours with countries from all over the world. And we have over 100 countries, over 100 organizations from across international institutions, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations. Of those, over 30 will speak live, and approximately 10 will be shown during intermissions in taped remarks.
The event will be a mixture of heads of state and non- governmental leaders. And we ask participants who aren’t speaking to send videos; we’ll be playing some of those during the summit and also publishing them after the event for all to see.
So far, what we’re seeing and receiving is a lot of energy, a lot of welcome and embracing for this event, its goals, and U.S. leadership and President Biden’s leadership to host it.
There’s going to be four sessions.
The first session is focused on “Calling the World to Account” and vaccinating the world. That session will be chaired by the President, and it will be moderated by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. It will include the U.N. Secretary-General; the World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros; at least six other heads of state; and other international organizations.
The second session, “Save Lives Now,” will be chaired by USAIDAdministrator Ambassador Samantha Power, and it will be moderated by Rockefeller Foundation President and former USAID Administrator Raj Shah. That event will focus on representatives and world leaders from foundations, non-governmental organizations to discuss challenges and solutions to persistent issues like oxygen — the oxygen crisis, access to testing and therapeutics, and building stronger health systems.
Our third session, “Build Back Better,” will be chaired by Vice President Harris and it will be moderated by Department of Health and Human Services Global Affairs and Global COVID Lead Loyce Pace. That effort — that session will include world leaders, philanthropists, and public health experts who will be speaking about health security financing, health security leadership, and how to build the capacity we need for the future.
Our closing session will feature Secretary of State Blinken and will be moderated by State Department Coordinator for the Global COVID Response Gayle Smith. That session will call leaders to action from across sectors and challenge them to take more actions this fall, with the U.S. in a leadership role.
And so, finally, what comes next: The summit is meant to be a deliberate beginning to the end of the pandemic, and it will launch a lot of work.
Specifically, we plan to take a leading role in tracking collective progress, working with governments, working with the U.N. and the Secretary-General’s team, working with the Multilateral Leaders Task Force that I mentioned earlier, the ACT Accelerator, COVAX, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.
We plan to convene a series of meetings throughout the fall and reconvene leaders by the first quarter of next year. And we look forward to this event galvanizing more urgency to end the pandemic, vaccinate the world, save lives now, build back better. And the United States intends to continue to lead.
Thanks very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’re now happy to take some questions.
Q Hi, thanks very much. Can you give us a sense of the cost of the additional 500 million vaccines that you’re purchasing? And can you give us more details on which foreign leaders will be participating tomorrow? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good. I can take the fir- — this is [senior administration official]. I can take the first and then, [senior administration official], I’ll defer you on the second.
We have agreed to — as we did with the first 500 million — a not-for-profit price, and we’ll ensure that that happens in the contracting process that will take place after this. So the contracts will be finalized as quickly as possible, but it will be at a not-for-profit price.
[Senior administration official], you want to talk for — talk about the foreign leaders?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, no, I’m happy to. So, what I’ll say today — you’ll have to watch it tomorrow — is that we have — we have world leaders from all over the world.
We prioritized geographic diversity. And I think you’ll see world leaders from all walks of life and around the world sharing their experiences with COVID-19 but, more importantly, sharing what they — what they think that they and the world need to do to end the pandemic.
Q Thank you all for doing this. First, if there’s any way to move this on the record, that’d be really helpful for a bunch of us.
Second, could you outline what the President’s personal involvement with the summit will be? Should we expect remarks from him?
And then, third, would it be possible for you to release publicly the specific asks of the various countries and partners? Is that part of the plan?
And then, are you expecting other nations to make similar vaccine donation commitments in association with the summit tomorrow?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I’m happy to take those.
So, first, the President will chair the opening session and he will make remarks associated with that.
Second, we will be releasing the targets after the events, including the asks. And just, very importantly, these asks are global and they’re meant to apply not only to governments but also to international institutions and the private sector.
You asked a third question; it just slipped my mind. Could you repeat it? I’m sorry.
Oh, on the record. Sorry. That’s — that one’s not for me to answer. Over.
MODERATOR: Apologies. We will need to keep this one on background, but I appreciate the ask nonetheless.
Q Hi, thank you for this. In terms of the (inaudible) that will come after the summit to ensure accountability, how is that going to work? Because from the materials that were released before, it looked like it might be a, sort of, like, doubling up to what the ACT Accelerator is doing. So if you can just talk a bit about, like, how exactly, you know, the aftermath of the summit will work?
And will the U.S. continue to take the lead on that? Or will you have a structure of, you know, international organizations and NGOs, and so on, to be kind of, like, making sure that each of these pillars are reaching their target?
And also, one thing that has come up a lot over the last week was the IP waiver that I know President Biden has said support — he supports for vaccines. Is this expected to come up at all during the Summit tomorrow? And is the U.S. expected to push other countries to back it — the World Trade Organization?
And just a quick question because I missed the beginning of the call: Will the 500 million vaccine doses that the President is announcing tomorrow be also Pfizer? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I can take the last one and, [senior administration official], maybe you can take the first two.
They will. They’ll all be Pfizer — 500 million Pfizer.
All right, [senior administration official], do you want to take the first two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Yep, and I’ll take them in reverse order.
So, the United States and the President continue to support a COVID-19 TRIPS waiver. As we said before, these are extraordinary times; they call for extraordinary measures. And we do support a waiver of intellectual property protections. And we’re working in the WTO on that effort and we continue to.
The second is about accountability. And we intend, this fall, to work very closely with not only the ACT Accelerator, which you mentioned, but also the Multilateral Task Force that already exists.
And you’re quite right: These organizations do exist as multilateral partnerships towards goals of ending the pandemic. But we are working with them. They do welcome U.S. leadership to help galvanize and to be able to help track progress.
And so, I think what you’re going to see coming out of the summit is an invigorated effort with those groups, with us working very closely with them, and us also asking for reporting of progress to come out not only of governments but also international financial institutions, development banks, foundations, and advocates to report on progress, and for us to be playing a role in being able to roll up that progress and help measure it.
And to make that happen, we’ll have a series of discussions which will serve not only as catalysts for solving some of the big problems that have been really hard to solve, like oxygen availability, access to tests, in addition to in-country vaccination and shots in arms, which have been just persistent challenges throughout the pandemic. But also, they’ll serve as forcing functions to be able to just consistently make sure that we’re able to ask and for others to step up and do as much as they possibly can to do more.
Q Thank you. Sorry if I missed this. One of the draft suggestions was a target of 70 percent vaccination by the end of September. Does the President plan to call for that?
And can you speak to why that particular date was hit and whether you think the capacity exists to hit that date? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I’m happy to take this one. So that is definitely a target that will be mentioned tomorrow. It’s a target that has been discussed in the international community, including by other — by the World Health Organization, for example. And so, it’s a target that we embrace and that we urge all countries to work to hit, and we think it’s an important target. It’s an ambitious target, but a very important target.
And we chose UNGA of 2022 because this is the U.N. General Assembly and we think that, you know, in a year, we should be in a much, much better position. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t start now; it means we push to do as much as we possibly can in 2021 to expedite delivery, to do — for other countries to do what we’ve just done — what [senior administration official] just outlined, which is historic: to work with our own companies to do more, to do more ourselves, and to be able to translate some of the pledges that are already out there for donating doses from their own supply — which we continually have been doing and which [senior administration official] outlined — but to have more of that happen so that we can actually fill some of those gaps earlier — as early as possible.
Q Yeah, thank you for taking my question. With less than 4 percent of people currently vaccinated in Africa, will the President announce any allocation for Africa from the additional vaccine doses being purchased?
And will the new doses be shared through COVAX? Will all the new doses be shared through COVAX? Thank you. The 500 million doses being purchased. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for your question. I think I can take that.
We will share through COVAX, as we did with the first 500 million. We won’t be announcing specific locations for those to go. Those will be worked out as they go along with COVAX and with our partners in Africa. So, those locations of the exact doses will come closer to the time of delivery of each of the monthly allotments.
MODERATOR: All right, that concludes our call. Friendly reminder that we are on background today, attributed to “senior administration officials,” and contents of this call are embargoed until 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. Thanks all for joining.
6:24 P.M. EDT