Trump stays mum on sharing vaccines as leaders push for equality

 indianexpress.com  11/22/2020 02:08:19 
By: Bloomberg | Updated: November 22, 2020 7:38:19 am
The battle to counter the pandemic dominated the first day of a virtual summit of Group of 20 nations on Saturday, hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Leaders of the worlds richest countries pushed for equality in the race to vaccinate people against the coronavirus, while President Donald Trump stayed quiet on sharing US-made vaccines with other nations.

The battle to counter the pandemic dominated the first day of a virtual summit of Group of 20 nations on Saturday, hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. president told his counterparts that any American who wants the vaccine will be able to get it, and singled out American producers Pfizer Inc., whose jab has been developed along with a German company, and Moderna Inc., according to officials who asked not to be named discussing the talks, which werent open to the press.

Trump praised American leadership, claiming credit for what he said was an efficient fight against the virus and success in bolstering the nations economy. But he said nothing about granting access to American vaccines by the rest of the world.

U.S. coronavirus deaths continue to soar, having recently passed 250,000, with the nation repeatedly reaching a record for daily cases. Total infections are nearing 12 million, with states including Ohio and California posting new Covid-19 case highs.

Shortly after Trumps remarks he left the virtual session — while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was speaking — and was replaced first by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and then White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, according to officials familiar with the meeting. Some other leaders also dropped off after giving their speeches, the officials said.

Trump later departed the White House for his Virginia golf course. The White House didnt immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia in August trumpeted its success in becoming the first nation to register a Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. U.S. and European rivals, though, are now moving faster to produce their vaccines and obtain regulatory approval. The European Union has reached a deal with Pfizer, which is partnered with Germanys BioNTech SE, and is negotiating an accord with Moderna.

China, meanwhile, is already rolling out mass vaccine output to fight the disease, offering it as a tool of soft power.

Echoing Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said it was up to each individual to decide whether to be vaccinated, adding that the pandemic shouldnt justify attacks on peoples freedom.

READ | Trump tweets about voter fraud during G-20 opening meeting

This handout photo provided by G20 Riyadh Summit, shows Saudi King Salman, center, and the rest of world leaders during a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia and held over video conference amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (G20 Riyadh Summit via AP)

Trump wasnt alone in praising his own countrys efforts. But Russian President Vladimir Putin also said his country is ready to share its vaccines with others that need it. Thats even as Russia hasnt produced enough doses to start mass inoculation of its own population.

The main risk, of course, remains the likelihood, despite some positive signals, of mass, long-term unemployment and the accompanying rise in poverty and social dislocation, Putin said in his speech. And the role of the G-20 is to ensure this doesnt happen.

It is a case when competition may be inevitable, but we must proceed primarily from humanitarian considerations and make it a priority, Putin added about vaccine availability, according to an official Kremlin translation of his remarks.

China, likewise, made a point of offering up its vaccines. China will honor its pledge, provide help and support to developing countries, and strive to make vaccines a global public good that is accessible and affordable to all countries, President Xi Jinping told the meeting, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi also called on G-20 members to support the World Health Organization in coordinating resource allocation to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of vaccines worldwide.

Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the meeting the G-20 should work to secure the affordable and fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccine for everyone. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said countries should share vaccines, and stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation against the virus, according to a G-20 official.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the 55-nation African Union, called for all countries to have equitable and affordable access to a vaccine once it becomes available and urged the G-20 to help ensure any funding shortfalls are addressed.

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