Biden to commit to working with ‘Quad’ countries to expand vaccine access

will commit to working with Australia, India and Japan to expand vaccine manufacturing and delivery in Asia in the first meeting of heads of countries that make up the “Quad” on Friday.

The new commitment is aimed at addressing shortages in vaccines in southeast Asia, according to senior administration officials.

The leaders will agree to work together to expand manufacturing for safe and effective vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and strengthen “last-mile” delivery of vaccines to make sure that they get to individuals that need them. 

“Quad members understand that as long as the pandemic continues to spread, none of us are safe and they’re rising to the challenge with the ambition really of ending COVID-19,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

Officials reiterated that the United States will not donate any vaccines until the full American population is vaccinated but would consider sharing vaccines with other countries should there be a surplus.

“We will not be talking about sharing vaccines right now,” the official said. “Our focus here is ensuring that Americans have access to safe and effective vaccines.”

The leaders will agree to set up a senior-level Quad vaccine expert working group in order to oversee plans to expand vaccine manufacturing and delivery and address other issues.

The plans come on the heels of Biden’s announcement in February that the U.S. would commit $4 billion in funding to support Covax, the global initiative to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines to underesourced countries. 

Biden will convene the summit virtually with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday. It is expected to stretch about 90 minutes, with each leader laying out issues of strategic importance for their countries.

Biden will be joined at the White House by Vice President Harris, Secretary of State , national security adviser and coronavirus response coordinator . 

The meeting is also expected to focus on climate change, and the leaders are expected to establish working groups on climate and emerging technologies.  

The Quad, formally known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, held its first meeting in 2004 following the devastating Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The informal alliance is viewed by some as a counter to China.

White House press secretary said Thursday that the Quad summit would cover a range of issues, not just China, but it nevertheless comes as all four countries are grappling with heightened tensions with Beijing related to its military and economic behavior.

“We expect the conversation to be about a range of global issues. It is not focused on China, of course China is a topic on the minds of many leaders and countries,” Psaki said, noting that the leaders were expected to discuss the climate crisis, economic cooperation, and coronavirus.  

Biden has held only a handful of meetings with foreign leaders since taking office in January, all of which have been virtual due to the pandemic. He has held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico and also participated in the Group of Seven (G7) hosted by the United Kingdom last month.

Friday’s meeting will be the first summit that Biden has hosted as president.  

The meeting comes on the heels of a key domestic victory for the new president, after Congress approved his coronavirus rescue package. Biden has been principally focused on combating the coronavirus in the United States and repairing the domestic economy.

The Biden administration expects to have enough vaccines for the adult American population by the end of May.

Biden announced Thursday that his administration is directing all states to make all American adults eligible to receive a vaccine by May 1.

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