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U.S. Will Donate 500 Million Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines To Poorer Countries

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Biden is in the United Kingdom today meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It's his first overseas trip since becoming president. Here he is talking to U.S. service members at an Air Force base in England.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We're going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future.

KING: On this trip, he will also attend the G-7 and NATO meetings, and he'll meet with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, in Switzerland. Today, he's announcing the United States will donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to poorer countries. With me now is Kate Bedingfield. She's the White House's communications director. Good morning, Ms. Bedingfield.

KATE BEDINGFIELD: Good morning, Noel. Thanks for having me.

KING: I'd like to begin with vaccines. The number of people dying of COVID in the U.S. is dropping, but there are still more than 400 deaths on average every day. Now, NPR has reported that the U.S. is on track to have more vaccines than it will need, but I know some people question whether now is the right time to donate. What does the administration think about this?

BEDINGFIELD: Now absolutely is the right time to donate. We have been able to at least partially vaccinate nearly 70% of eligible adults in the United States. And we have the supply that we need to ensure that everyone in the United States who's eligible is able to get a vaccine. So now is the right time to make this commitment that the president is going to make later today. It's the largest commitment of doses to the global fight against COVID that any country has made thus far. It's the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing to do. We know that the virus doesn't see borders, and so ensuring that we can help get people around the world vaccinated is also going to keep Americans safer. So the president is looking forward to making this announcement, and he'll be speaking to it later today.

KING: And he will be meeting on this trip tomorrow with G-7 leaders. He said he wants to use this trip as an opportunity to marshal a plan to bring the pandemic under control. Aside from vaccine sharing, what other commitments will he ask of G-7 leaders?

BEDINGFIELD: The president is going to be focused on ensuring that we are partnering with the G-7 countries, some of the biggest democracies in the world, to institute some of the best practices that we've been able to apply at home as we've worked to get the virus under control since the president took office in January. So they're going to have a range of what we hope are really productive conversations that show the world that, you know, the biggest democracies in the world can lead on the world stage. You know, the president is here at the G-7 and on this trip overseas with a very clear message, which is America is back. And American leadership on the world stage is not just about the example of our power but about the power of our example. And so they're going to have productive discussions, and I won't get ahead of some of the announcements that they may be able to make over the next couple of days, but we anticipate that there will be good, constructive conversations about best practices to get this virus under control around the globe.

KING: America is back, as you point out, is the refrain of this trip. How does President Biden convince our allies who might be skeptical of the United States after what happened during the Trump administration?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think a lot of it is about leadership. It's about keeping our commitments, which I think as President Biden has come into office, he has demonstrated that America is a country that keeps its commitments on the world stage. Of course, this 500 million doses announcement today is one piece of that. But I think he's also showed that at home, democracy can work. You know, he was able to come in, get the American Rescue Plan passed, get the checks that he had promised on the campaign trail and during the transition out to people all over the country who need them, was able to pass the child tax credit to ensure that families across the country with children get that benefit that's going to be so critical to them in helping put food on the table and pay their rent. So I think he has demonstrated that democracies and the United States can keep their commitments and can deliver. And so that's a big piece of how we work with our allies and show our allies that on the world stage, the United States is a leader. And I think President Biden has been able to do that since he came into office.

KING: And here, I must ask you about Russia. The president says he's looking for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Russia, however, is unpredictable. It's been home to a series of cyberattacks on U.S. companies and on the U.S. government. It is aggressive to its neighbors. What does the administration think a stable relationship with Russia looks like?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, you know, President Biden would agree with you. I mean, he's somebody who's done diplomacy on the public stage for his entire time in public life. And he's known President Putin for many years. He's sat down and met with him face to face. He's always been direct with him. He will be direct with him when they meet next week. And, you know, we see areas certainly of great disagreement. No question the issue of cyberattacks and ransomware is one. Incursion on the Ukrainian border, election interference, human rights violations; there are significant areas of difference between us, and those are things that President Biden will raise in his conversation with President Putin. But there are also areas where we are aligned. You know, we've made progress on the new START Treaty, you know, making progress on arms control. You know, there are areas where we are aligned. So for President Biden, a stable, predictable relationship with Russia means being direct about the places where we disagree but also looking for areas of consensus and finding ways to work together when it's in the United States' interests. That's the foreign policy that he's laid out vis-a-vis Russia, and that's the tenor of the conversation that he'll have with President Putin next week.

KING: Kate Bedingfield is the White House communications director. Ms. Bedingfield, thank you so much for your time this morning.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks so much for having me, Noel. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.