Biden chides leaders resisting jab rules

Zeke Miller and Darlene SupervilleAAP
"Vaccinate America and help vaccinate the world," President Joe Biden said.
Camera Icon"Vaccinate America and help vaccinate the world," President Joe Biden said. Credit: AP

President Joe Biden has called on resistant Republican governors to "get out of the way" of vaccine rules aimed at containing the more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variant as the United States struggles to contain the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Speaking from the White House, Biden backed city and private mandates requiring people to be vaccinated to go about some daily activities.

He sharply criticised Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates as the Delta variant surges in their states and other parts of the country that have large numbers of unvaccinated people.

"If you're not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing," Biden said on Tuesday.

Biden endorsed New York City's move to require vaccinations to dine indoors or go to the gym, as well as corporate moves to require vaccines to return to work, and said more localities and businesses should follow suit. Such policies have been barred to varying degrees in at least seven Republican-led states.

A rise in infections in the US, fuelled by the highly contagious Delta strain, led US public health officials last week to recommend that even people who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in some public indoor settings.

After months of dangling carrots of incentive to Americans to get vaccinated - including million-dollar cash lotteries and opportunities to earn free college tuition - the Biden administration is looking to wield a stick by making it harder for people to remain unvaccinated without seeing their daily lives disrupted.

As he seeks to drive up vaccinations at home, Biden is also spotlighting his administration's progress in sharing shots with the rest of the world - an initiative helped in part by the slowed pace of domestic vaccination that has increased the nation's stockpile of doses.

About 90 million eligible Americans aged 12 and over have yet to receive one dose of vaccine.

Biden announced the US had donated and shipped more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia.

"Vaccinate America and help vaccinate the world," Biden said. "That's how we're going to beat this thing."

While notable, the 110 million doses the US has donated largely through a global vaccine program known as COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed worldwide.

The White House said on Tuesday that US at the end of August would begin shipping 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine that it had pledged to 100 low-income countries by June 2022.

The White House insists that nothing is being sought in return for the shots, contrasting its approach with Russia and China, which it alleges have used access to their domestically produced vaccines as a tool of geopolitical leverage.

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