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Latin America poised to benefit as U.S. raises exports of COVID-19 shots – sources

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Latin America is poised to receive millions of U.S.-made COVID-19 shots in the coming weeks as the United States emerges as a top exporter of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The United States is considering prioritizing countries within its own hemisphere for the 80 million domestically-made vaccine doses it has pledged to send abroad, one person familiar with the matter said.

Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc has begun exporting millions of its U.S.-made shots largely to countries in Central and South America, a second person familiar with the matter said.

Many Latin American countries have a dire need for COVID-19 vaccines as they combat outbreaks. Brazil has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries by the pandemic, reporting a total of more than 15 million cases and 400,000 deaths as of this week.

Pfizer, which developed its vaccine with German partner BioNTech SE, is producing around 10 million shots in the United States each week for export as its domestic output pulls ahead of U.S. demand for vaccines, the second person said.

The drugmaker is making shipments from its Michigan facility to U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico, as well as nearly 10 other Latin American countries, the person said.

Recent recipients of Pfizer’s U.S.-made vaccine doses include Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay, the person added.

The White House is still deliberating how to direct the shots it promised to send abroad and President Joe Biden has not yet made a decision. But giving preference to countries that share a hemisphere with the United States is one argument under consideration because it would be in the American people’s interest to do so, the first person said.

The criteria for sharing the vaccine would be epidemiological and include geographic flexibility so that adjustments could be made as the pandemic shifts, another person familiar with the matter said.

VACCINE DIPLOMACY

The United States is competing with China and Russia to deepen its ties around the world and further its geopolitical clout through so-called “vaccine diplomacy.”

Republican Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday urged the United States to speed up global vaccination sharing to better compete with global rivals.

Gayle Smith, the U.S. global coordinator on COVID-19, said on Wednesday that the United States will donate a significant number of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX program for distributing doses to poorer countries being co-led by the World Health Organization.

Pfizer is directing its U.S.-made shots to Latin America because of the region’s proximity to its manufacturing plants and because of the U.S. drugmakers’ goal of getting more shots to low and middle income countries, the second person said.

The United States is becoming a top supplier of COVID-19 shots to the world as the success of its own vaccination campaign has led to reduced demand at home.

More than 60% of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to federal data. Meanwhile, countries such as India and Brazil are struggling to obtain the doses they need to help bring severe outbreaks under control.

Brazil has only distributed enough shots so far to have vaccinated around 13% of its population, even as it records almost 65,000 new cases per day on average, according to Reuters data.

Biden said on Monday the White House will give out 20 million shots previously earmarked for U.S. residents by the end of June. They will include vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson.

The White House is also planning to give other countries around 60 million U.S.-made doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States.

Pfizer began exporting doses from its Kalamazoo, Michigan plant last month, with the first batch of shipments abroad going to Mexico. A deal with the White House last year had barred it from exporting doses until after March 31, Reuters reported.

Pfizer is continuing to hold talks with India, where the virus is raging out of control, as its shot is not yet authorized by India. The timeline for any potential agreement is not clear, the second person said.

 

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell and Jeff Mason; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

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Trudeau called for concerted G7 approach to China

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led a Group of Seven discussion of China on Saturday and called on leaders to come up with a unified approach to the challenges posed by the People’s Republic, a source said.

G7 leaders – who together control about $40 trillion in economic clout – reached broad alignment on building a concerted approach to China, the source with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

“Trudeau’s message today was that we really need to work to build a consensus on a unified approach to the challenges that China presents all of us,” the source said. “We have to show solidarity as a group and show action as a group as well.”

“There is a general alignment” at the G7 on China, the source said.

 

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton and Michael Holden)

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Ukraine’s president thanks G7 nations for support

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked the G7 group of wealthy industrial nations on Sunday after it voiced support for Kyiv and called on Russia to withdraw troops and weapons from near Ukraine’s eastern border.

Leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan reaffirmed their backing for Ukraine and called on Moscow to stop its destabilising behaviour in a communique issued after a three-day summit in the UK.

“Commend the unwavering support by #G7 states in the Summit’s communiqué,” Zelenskiy wrote in Twitter.

“Grateful to leaders for the continued support for Ukraine’s independence & sovereignty & the call to the aggressor to withdraw troops from Ukraine’s borders & Crimea. #Crimea is Ukraine!”

Kyiv hopes pressure from Western allies could force Moscow to withdraw tens of thousands of its troops deployed in April near Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The West expressed concern about the worsening of the situation in the eastern region of Donbass, where Ukrainian troops fought Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Kyiv said had killed 14,000 people since 2014.

 

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Thousands march in support of Muslim family killed in truck attack in London, Ontario

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Thousands of people marched on Friday in support of a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man driving a pick-up truck last Sunday in an attack the police described as a hate crime.

The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, survived.

People in London, Ontario marched about 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) from the spot where the family was struck down to a nearby mosque, the site close to where Veltman was arrested by police.

Some carried placards with messages reading ‘Hate has no home here’, ‘Love over hate.’ Similar events were held in other cities in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province.

“The best part was not just the numbers … but the diversity of the people coming from every single community in London, coming together for this cause,” said 19-year old college student Abdullah Al Jarad at the march.

The attack sparked outrage across Canada, with politicians from all sides condemning the crime, spurring growing calls to take action to curb hate crime and Islamophobia.

Veltman made a brief court appearance on Thursday and will return to court on Monday. He faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.

 

(Writing by Denny Thomas; editing by Richard Pullin)

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