Expect something on vaccines during Quad summit: US Secretary of State

WashingtonUpdated: Mar 11, 2021, 12:45 PM IST
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (file photo) Photograph:(Reuters)

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Blinken was responding to a question from Indian-American Congressman Dr Ami Bera during a Congressional hearing convened by the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The first Quad summit between the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States on Friday is likely to come out with something on coronavirus vaccine, a top American diplomat indicated Wednesday.

"We have a Quad summit meeting on Friday with President (Joe) Biden, and I expect we'll see something on vaccines coming out of that summit. There are other things that we're looking at that we're working on in the days and weeks and months ahead to make sure that we are a leading international actor in creating greater access to vaccines," Secretary of State Tony Blinken told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

Blinken was responding to a question from Indian-American Congressman Dr Ami Bera during a Congressional hearing convened by the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I want to recognize the importance of the Quad and the importance that the administration has played on our Quad relationship in the region with Japan, Australia, and India. But I'm a doctor first, and, you know, my interests have always been as a physician on global health pandemic preparedness," the Indian-American lawmaker said.

"First, we have to stop COVID-19 and restore and strengthen our global health security. And as such, I will really appreciate the early aggressive actions by the president as well as the administration to ramp up vaccine production here, to ramp up distribution with the bill that we passed today, the American Rescue Plan," he said.

Bera said he knew in his dialogue with others around the world, they understand that American companies are in a transparent way producing some of the best and most effective vaccines coming out of Moderna, Pfizer, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and potentially Novavax and others coming soon.

"I would be curious, as we start to think about once we've stopped COVID here domestically or at least gotten vaccines to the US population, how we're going to directly engage and counter some of what China is doing, in a coercive way, frankly, with what I think is a worse vaccine," Bera said.

Blinken said the US has joined COVAX. "We are contributing significant resources, to billion dollars, initially with additional resources to come," he said.

"We have to make sure that every American is vaccinated. And that is our number one priority. That is job one. As we're doing that, we're looking at ways to accelerate access to vaccines around the world. As we discussed a little bit earlier, it's in our national security interest to do that because, as long as the virus is replicating, it's mutating. As long as it's mutating, it could come back to bite us. So, we have a strong interest in doing that," Blinken said.

"And of course, if a big chunk of the rest of the world is not vaccinated and their economies continue to suffer, there's human suffering that goes with that, but there's also an economic deficit for us because we lose partners. So, we have a real interest in doing that," Blinken said.

He said that the Biden administration held the first ministerial meeting of the quadrilateral security dialogue between US, Japan, Australia, and India. "And we will hold a leader level summit this week on Friday," he said.

Congressman Brad Sherman, Co-Chairman of the House Indian Caucus, said that he is pleased that President Biden will be participating in the quad summit just this Friday with the heads of state of India, Australia and Japan.