WASHINGTON – The White House will announce a new global vaccine initiative Friday – aimed at expanding manufacturing capacity in India for up to 1 billion new doses for developing countries by 2022, according to an administration official.
The Biden administration will unveil the effort during a virtual summit on Friday with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia.
The official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, did not provide cost details but said it would center on a financing agreement for “a very substantial, frankly dramatic increase in the capacity to create vaccines – up to a billion by 2022.” The initiative will also help fund vaccine delivery to people across Southeast Asia.
The official also said that President Joe Biden will host Japan’s prime minister at the White House – his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader – as his administration seeks to shore up U.S. alliances in Asia and counter China’s global ambitions. No date has been set yet for the meeting with Japan’s leader, Yoshihide Suga.
On Friday, Biden will meet virtually with Suga as well as the prime ministers of India and Australia to discuss China, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other shared concerns. The so-called “Quad” is seen as a strategic alliance to counter Beijing’s economic and military expansionism. All four countries have had tense relations with Beijing recently on a range of issues.
The vaccine announcement comes as the Biden administration faces growing pressure to dip into America’s vaccine supply, with global health experts noting the U.S. has purchased far more than it needs to inoculate the U.S. population. Biden has said the U.S. will share its vaccine supply with other countries once all Americans have been vaccinated.
In the meantime, Beijing has ramped up its vaccine diplomacy, racing to provide Chinese-made vaccines to low-income countries.
Biden and his advisers have cast China as the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States, arguing Beijing is to seeking to promote its repressive, authoritarian system on the rest of the world.
“China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system – all the values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent speech outlining Biden’s foreign policy priorities.
Next week, Blinken and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska, a high-stakes session likely to focus on Beijing’s human rights abuses and other contentious issues.