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Will Israel’s Strong Vaccination Campaign Give Netanyahu an Election Edge?

He has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off the deal with Pfizer to secure the early delivery of millions of vaccines, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, had great affinity for Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from South Park, the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.

But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.

Just months ago, Israel’s daily infection rates and death rates were among the worst in the world. By February, Israel was also leading the world in the number of lockdown days. About two million Israelis under 16 are so far unable to get vaccinated and about a million eligible citizens have so far chosen not to.

With much of the adult population now vaccinated, weekly infection rates have been dropping dramatically. But there are still more than a thousand new cases a day, an infection rate that, adjusted for population, remains higher than those of the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain and others.

Health officials approved the reopening of businesses and leisure activities. But they sharply criticized a High Court decision this week lifting the quotas on airport arrivals, in part to allow Israeli citizens abroad to get back and vote.

“The High Court is taking responsibility for the risk of mutations entering Israel,” Yoav Kish, the deputy health minister, wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to us all.”

Critics blame the government for having failed to establish a reliable system to enforce quarantine for people entering the country, and health experts warn that they could bring in dangerous variants of the virus that are more resistant to the vaccine.

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Trust in AstraZeneca Vaccine Is Shaken in Europe

PARIS — It’s said that the European Union grows stronger through crises. The bloc’s attempt at a coordinated vaccination program, less a rollout than a roller coaster, has tested that theory, and now the suspension of the AstraZeneca shots in many countries threatens to turn widespread disarray into an outright debacle.

“I feel like we are being used as guinea pigs,” said Khady Ballo, 21, a law student in the southern French town of Montpellier. “I would not get the AstraZeneca vaccine even if it is approved again.”

Although it seems likely that the European Medicines Agency, the 27-member union’s top drug regulator, will quickly pronounce the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, millions of Europeans have been shaken by the back-and-forth and will be more hesitant about vaccination.

“Before this, I was so pro-vaccines I would have dipped children into them,” said Maria Grazia Del Pero, 62, who works in tourism in Milan. But now, “I would not get AstraZeneca because that would be like playing Russian roulette.”

the sudden panic over the AstraZeneca shot, has left European governments on the defensive and Europeans reeling.

AstraZeneca said this week that a review of more than 17 million people who had received its vaccine found that they were actually less likely than the general population to develop dangerous clots.

European countries, led by France and Germany, have been torn between a strong desire to avoid what they call “vaccination nationalism,” and the realization that the European Union was not fully prepared for an operation on this scale. If integration of the bloc’s health policy has been fast-forwarded, with possible long-term benefits, lives have also been lost.

The sight of Britain powering ahead with vaccinations — more than 26 million doses have been given, more than three times the number in France — has been particularly galling, given its recent exit from the union. Some Europeans understandably ask why.

Trust has long been a central issue in France, where skepticism toward Covid-19 vaccines late last year was widespread. In December less than half the population said it was ready to be vaccinated.

That number, according to a poll by Harris Interactive, had risen to 64 percent earlier this month, before the AstraZeneca setback. Even then, however, trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine was lower, at 43 percent of the population, a number now halved.

The situation is scarcely better in Germany, although its death rate from the virus has been lower than France’s. “Stopping the AstraZeneca maximizes the damage to its image that has plagued the German vaccination strategy from the beginning,” Ulrich Weigeldt, the head of the German Association of General Practitioners, told the Funke media group. “Vaccination is and remains a question of trust.”

Confidence in the vaccine remains fairly high in Britain, where millions of people have received it, and even on the continent, many Europeans seem untouched by the AstraZeneca fears. “I would definitely get the AstraZeneca vaccine if approved again,” said Corinne Taddei, 60, a karate instructor in Paris. The Covid vaccines, she said, are “the only solution to save us and get out of this pandemic.”

Maria Paraskevoula, a 52-year-old teacher in Athens, was also unbowed. “I’ll take any vaccine, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, I don’t care. From what I’ve heard, the chances of any problems are minimal. There’s always a risk but isn’t a bigger risk to walk around waiting to get infected?”

Last week, when reports surfaced that two men in Sicily, an Italian naval officer and a police officer, had died shortly after taking the AstraZeneca shot, the website of the Tuscany region registered 4,100 cancellations for the AstraZeneca vaccine in a day, roughly 12 percent of the people booked for the week ahead. In a few days, however, the vacancies were filled by other residents.

The disarray comes at a difficult moment with Europe facing what Mr. Castex, the French prime minister, has called “a kind of third wave” from new variants of the virus, even as exhaustion and depression have set in, along with severe hardship. Europe’s eventual economic recovery from the pandemic is set to be much slower than the American.

With the national mood restive, and a presidential election next year, the French government is wavering between further lockdowns and suggestions that by April 15 restaurants may start to open and a curfew be eased.

Its target of having 10 million people vaccinated with at least a first shot by mid-April, as compared to 5.6 million today, now looks ambitious given the fallout from the AstraZeneca panic. But French authorities insist it can be done, even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has to be withdrawn.

More than a year from the first lockdowns around Europe, an end to the crisis seems no closer. “I was never a No-Vaxxer,” said Laura Cerchi, a teacher at an elementary school on the outskirts of Florence who had her first shot of AstraZeneca in early March. “But all this confusion had me wondering whether I want to do the second shot or not. The mixed messages are not boosting my confidence in vaccines.”

In an interview, Clément Beaune, France’s junior minister for European Affairs, defended European policy. “I don’t believe that it’s European weightiness that is slowing down our vaccination process. Do we have problems in Europe? Yes. Would we — France, Germany — resolve these better at a national level waging war to obtain vaccine doses? I do not believe so.”

Reporting was contributed by Gaëlle Fournier, Aurelien Breeden and Constant Méheut in Paris, Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Emma Bubola in Milan and Gaia Pianigiani in Siena, Italy, and Niki Kitsantonis in Athens.

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The S.E.C. Is Increasingly Making E.S.G. a Priority

Allison Herren Lee was named acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission in January, and since then she has been active, especially when it comes to environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., issues. The agency has issued a flurry of notices that such disclosures will be priorities this year. Today, Ms. Lee, who was appointed as a commissioner by President Donald Trump in 2019, is speaking at the Center for American Progress, where she will call for input on additional E.S.G. transparency, according to prepared remarks seen by DealBook.

The supposed distinction between what’s good and what’s profitable is diminishing, Ms. Lee will argue in the speech, saying that “acting in pursuit of the public interest and acting to maximize the bottom line” are complementary. The S.E.C.’s job is to meet investor demand for data on a range of corporate activities, and Ms. Lee’s planned remarks suggest that greater transparency on E.S.G. issues won’t be optional for much longer. “That demand is not being met by the current voluntary framework,” she will say. “Human capital, human rights, climate change — these issues are fundamental to our markets, and investors want to and can help drive sustainable solutions on these issues.”

  • Ms. Lee will also argue that “political spending disclosure is inextricably linked to E.S.G. issues,” based on research showing that many companies have made climate pledges while donating to candidates with contradictory voting records. The same goes for racial justice initiatives, she will say.

This is not an interim priority. Ms. Lee is acting chief, but based on recent statements by Gary Gensler, President Biden’s choice to lead the S.E.C., she’s laying the groundwork for more action rather than throwing down the gauntlet. In his confirmation hearing this month, Mr. Gensler said that investors increasingly wanted companies to disclose risks associated with climate change, diversity, political spending and other E.S.G. issues.

Not everyone at the S.E.C. is on board. Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman, fellow commissioners also appointed by Mr. Trump, recently protested the “steady flow” of climate and E.S.G. notices. They issued a public statement, asking, “Do these announcements represent a change from current commission practices or a continuation of the status quo with a new public relations twist?”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested, to varying degrees, that the governor of New York consider resigning over allegations of sexual harassment. He has rejected those calls and is considering running for a fourth term.

The U.S. is considering new ways to protect itself against cyberattacks. Efforts by China and Russia to breach government and corporate computer networks — and the failure of American intelligence to detect them — have spurred discussions about ways to organize U.S. cyberdefenses, including more partnerships with private companies.

Credit Suisse is accused of continuing to help Americans evade taxes. The Swiss bank aided clients in hiding assets, seven years after it promised U.S. federal prosecutors that it would stop doing so, according to a whistle-blower report. That puts the firm at risk of a fresh investigation and more financial penalties. The bank said it was cooperating with the authorities.

A veteran Democratic official is poised to join the Biden administration. Gene Sperling, an economic wonk who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, is likely to oversee the implementation of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Politico reports.

Stripe is now Silicon Valley’s most valuable start-up. The payments processor has raised funding from investors like Sequoia and Fidelity at a $95 billion valuation. Stripe plans to use the money to expand in Europe, including in its founders’ home country, Ireland.

chief counsel of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase before joining the O.C.C. But his enthusiasm isn’t based on Bitcoin’s success as much as on his personal struggles, he told DealBook.

Mr. Brooks borrowed his way out of an ailing town. He grew up in Pueblo, Colo., a steel center that lost its purpose in the 1980s. His father took his own life when Mr. Brooks was 14, and he and his mother had little. In high school, he waited tables and took out loans for school, for a car and eventually for a home. Now, he’s betting that blockchain can help the underbanked do the same more easily.

“Unlocking credit availability allows people to move up the ladder,” Mr. Brooks said. Nearly 50 million Americans don’t have credit scores, but many are creditworthy. Traditional rating systems aren’t equipped for nuanced assessments that might include things like rent, Netflix bills or income from gig work. For many, the inability to borrow limits opportunities to achieve financial security.

Finding solutions to financial inclusion that are immune to politics is key, noted Mr. Brooks, a Trump administration appointee. Credit, he argues, lets people bet on themselves regardless of which party is making policy, and the current system excludes many worthy borrowers. “Let’s let more people climb ladders,” Mr. Brooks said.


— Howard Lindzon, an investor, entrepreneur and market commentator, speaking to The Times’s Erin Griffith on the booms (or bubbles) in everything from trading cards to Bitcoin, SPACs and so-called meme stocks.


new data from the Harris Poll, revealed exclusively in DealBook.

A year of living in fear created unlikely heroes. For the past year or so, the Harris Poll has monitored public sentiment in weekly surveys of more than 114,000 people. At the height of the emergency, more than half of respondents were afraid of dying from the virus and a similar share were afraid of losing their jobs. “Only in the past month, with vaccines rising and hospitalizations and deaths declining, is fear abating,” the report noted.

The Times’s Opinion podcast “Sway,” the economist Mariana Mazzucato told Kara Swisher that the traditional narrative has holes in it.

“Do you have any idea where the innovation in places like Silicon Valley came from?” asked Ms. Mazzucato, the founder of University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She ticked off technologies like the internet and GPS: “We wouldn’t have any smart product without all the smart technology, which was government-financed.”

Listen to the conversation here.

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President Biden Takes 1st Tentative Steps to Address Global Covid-19 Vaccine Shortage

WASHINGTON — President Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved on Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.

In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.

That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months, as Americans clamor for their shots.

The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.

sit idly in American manufacturing facilities.

“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said this week, adding, “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1, that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, and that by July 4, if Americans continue to follow public health guidance, life should be returning to a semblance of normalcy.

Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.

Still, Mr. Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said in a recent BBC interview that a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort; Washington, he said, was “determined” to be an “international leader” on vaccinations.

according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authoritarian governments of China and Russia, which are less buffeted by domestic public opinion, are already using vaccines to expand their spheres of influence. While the Biden administration plans its strategy to counter China’s growing global clout, Beijing is burnishing its image by shipping vaccines to dozens of countries on several continents, including in Africa, Latin America and particularly in its Southeast Asian backyard.

Russia has supplied vaccines to Eastern European nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at a time when Biden officials want to keep the European Union unified against Russian influence on the continent.

new variants emerging in the United States and around the world, public health experts say vaccinating people overseas is also necessary to protect Americans.

“It has to be sold to Americans as an essential strategy to make Americans safe and secure over the long term, and it has to be sold to a highly divided, toxic America,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s impossible. I think Americans are beginning to understand that in a world of variants, everything that happens outside our borders ups the urgency to move really fast.”

Mr. Blinken said as much to the BBC: “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.”

The Quad Vaccine Partnership announced at the summit meeting on Friday involves different commitments from each of the nations, according to the White House.

Beyond assistance for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, the United States pledged at least $100 million to bolster vaccination capacity abroad and aid public health efforts. Japan, it said, is “in discussions” to provide loans for the Indian government to expand manufacturing of vaccines for export and will aid vaccination programs for developing countries. Australia will contribute $77 million to provide vaccines and delivery support with a focus on Southeast Asia.

The four countries will also form aQuad Vaccine Experts Group oftop scientists and government officials who will work to address manufacturing hurdles and financing plans.

secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses to confront new variants and unforeseen events. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”

In addition to resisting a push to give away excess doses, Mr. Biden has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats by blocking a request by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver to an international intellectual property agreement that would give poorer countries easier access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

“I understand why we should be prioritizing our supply with Americans — it was paid for by American taxpayers, President Biden is president of America,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California. “But there is no reason we have to prioritize the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the dignity of people in other countries.”

donation of $4 billion to Covax, the international vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organization. David Bryden, the director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at supporting health workers in low- and middle-income countries, said money was also desperately needed to help train and pay those workers to administer vaccines overseas.

President George W. Bush responded to the AIDS crisis in Africa in the 2000s with a huge investment of public health funding. More than a decade later, Mr. Bush and the United States remain venerated across much of the continent for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which the government says spent $85 billion and saved 20 million lives.

Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter under Mr. Bush and a policy adviser who helped devise the Pepfar program, said that its effect had been both moral and strategic, and that the program had earned the United States “a tremendous amount of good will” in Africa.

“I think the principle here should be that the people who need it most should get it no matter where they live,” he said. “It doesn’t make much moral sense to give a healthy American 24-year-old the vaccine before a frontline worker in Liberia.”

But, he added, “that’s very hard for an American politician to explain.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting

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China’s Dr. Fauci, Dr. Zhang Wenhong, Urges Restraint in Fighting Covid-19

China has imposed some of the toughest lockdowns in the world to stop Covid-19. One city sealed apartment doors, leaving residents with dwindling food and medicine. One village tied a local to a tree after he left home to buy cigarettes. Beijing forced people to leave their pets behind when they went into quarantine.

Few officials spoke up against the excesses, given the central government’s obsession with its anti-coronavirus campaign. That hasn’t stopped Dr. Zhang Wenhong.

Dr. Zhang, an infectious-disease specialist and perhaps China’s most trusted voice on Covid-19, has spoken out publicly against excessive lockdowns, though he hasn’t criticized individual cities. Fighting the pandemic, he likes to say, is like “catching mice in a china shop.”

“We hope that our pandemic prevention measures won’t affect public life too much,” Dr. Zhang wrote on Jan. 24, after a second wave of infections prompted tough clampdowns.

video a few days later, “life would be too hard.”

Dr. Zhang may be China’s closest analogue to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the American infectious-disease specialist who became the public face of stopping the coronavirus amid the chaos of the Trump administration. A consummate technocrat, Dr. Zhang comes across as neither political nor ideological. Yet, by offering his expert opinions straight, he pushes back against the authoritarian instinct in a system that often overreacts with draconian measures.

A top academic at Fudan University in Shanghai and a member of the Communist Party, Dr. Zhang led Shanghai’s expert panel on Covid-19, giving him considerable authority over the city’s response.

propaganda, conspiracy theories and crude nationalism.

viewed more than 860 million times on his department’s official WeChat account alone.

Maintaining a high profile in China often requires discretion. Late last year, Jack Ma, the technology billionaire, publicly criticized regulators. The authorities quickly swooped down on his business empire.

Dr. Zhang doesn’t challenge the government, but neither does he always toe the official line. Late last year, some Chinese officials pointed to findings that the virus had been found on the packaging of imported food, suggesting that the coronavirus may have been brought to China from overseas. Dr. Zhang has told his audience not to worry about it: “The chance of catching the virus from imported goods,” he said, “is lower than dying in a plane crash.”

“I’m not going to hide the information because I’m worried that I could say something wrong and cause some controversies,” he said over the summer. “We always share what we know.”

responded that protein helps build the immune system.

Still, he has kept a high profile without drawing major ire from the government or sustained criticism from the nationalists. Some of that stems from China’s pride in quickly containing the coronavirus. Dr. Zhang, who played a role in that, has won a number of awards from official groups.

In watching his speeches, I found another key to his sustained appeal. In his impromptu speech at a national teaching award ceremony in September, he said the essence of education is acknowledging human dignity. Mr. Zhang appeals to the humanity of his audience and, by admitting his own foibles, shows the authorities and the public that he is merely human, too.

In one speech, he mentioned that some victims of avian flu had caught it from taking care of their infected loved ones, and that female patients were more likely to infect their doting mothers than their absent husbands. “At that moment,” he told the audience, “I lost faith in romantic love.”

said, “I would have worked on my deltoid.”

interview last June, a reporter asked him whether anybody had reminded him to be mindful of his status as an expert and the head of an expert government panel.

“People are smart,” he responded. “They know whether you’re telling them truth or lies.”

When he gets public accolades, he often uses the occasion to highlight his causes, like more funding for infectious-disease research and for increasing the public awareness of tuberculosis and hepatitis B, two of the most common infectious diseases in China.

He also talks about people who deserved more attention, like the women among the pandemic responders whose role has often taken a back seat to the men’s in the media. “Men are on camera more,” he said at a forum on the subject, “but women did more work.”

Then he turned to the female medical workers, and bowed.

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Biden Takes First Tentative Steps to Address Global Vaccine Shortage

WASHINGTON — President Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved on Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.

In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.

That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months, as Americans clamor for their shots.

The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.

sit idly in American manufacturing facilities.

“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said this week, adding, “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1, that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, and that by July 4, if Americans continue to follow public health guidance, life should be returning to a semblance of normalcy.

Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.

Still, Mr. Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said in a recent BBC interview that a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort; Washington, he said, was “determined” to be an “international leader” on vaccinations.

according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authoritarian governments of China and Russia, which are less buffeted by domestic public opinion, are already using vaccines to expand their spheres of influence. While the Biden administration plans its strategy to counter China’s growing global clout, Beijing is burnishing its image by shipping vaccines to dozens of countries on several continents, including in Africa, Latin America and particularly in its Southeast Asian backyard.

Russia has supplied vaccines to Eastern European nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at a time when Biden officials want to keep the European Union unified against Russian influence on the continent.

new variants emerging in the United States and around the world, public health experts say vaccinating people overseas is also necessary to protect Americans.

“It has to be sold to Americans as an essential strategy to make Americans safe and secure over the long term, and it has to be sold to a highly divided, toxic America,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s impossible. I think Americans are beginning to understand that in a world of variants, everything that happens outside our borders ups the urgency to move really fast.”

Mr. Blinken said as much to the BBC: “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.”

The Quad Vaccine Partnership announced at the summit meeting on Friday involves different commitments from each of the nations, according to the White House.

Beyond assistance for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, the United States pledged at least $100 million to bolster vaccination capacity abroad and aid public health efforts. Japan, it said, is “in discussions” to provide loans for the Indian government to expand manufacturing of vaccines for export and will aid vaccination programs for developing countries. Australia will contribute $77 million to provide vaccines and delivery support with a focus on Southeast Asia.

The four countries will also form aQuad Vaccine Experts Group oftop scientists and government officials who will work to address manufacturing hurdles and financing plans.

secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses to confront new variants and unforeseen events. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”

In addition to resisting a push to give away excess doses, Mr. Biden has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats by blocking a request by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver to an international intellectual property agreement that would give poorer countries easier access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

“I understand why we should be prioritizing our supply with Americans — it was paid for by American taxpayers, President Biden is president of America,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California. “But there is no reason we have to prioritize the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the dignity of people in other countries.”

donation of $4 billion to Covax, the international vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organization. David Bryden, the director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at supporting health workers in low- and middle-income countries, said money was also desperately needed to help train and pay those workers to administer vaccines overseas.

President George W. Bush responded to the AIDS crisis in Africa in the 2000s with a huge investment of public health funding. More than a decade later, Mr. Bush and the United States remain venerated across much of the continent for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which the government says spent $85 billion and saved 20 million lives.

Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter under Mr. Bush and a policy adviser who helped devise the Pepfar program, said that its effect had been both moral and strategic, and that the program had earned the United States “a tremendous amount of good will” in Africa.

“I think the principle here should be that the people who need it most should get it no matter where they live,” he said. “It doesn’t make much moral sense to give a healthy American 24-year-old the vaccine before a frontline worker in Liberia.”

But, he added, “that’s very hard for an American politician to explain.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting

View Source

China’s Dr. Fauci Urges Restraint in Fighting Covid-19

China has imposed some of the toughest lockdowns in the world to stop Covid-19. One city sealed apartment doors, leaving residents with dwindling food and medicine. One village tied a local to a tree after he left home to buy cigarettes. Beijing forced people to leave their pets behind when they went into quarantine.

Few officials spoke up against the excesses, given the central government’s obsession with its anti-coronavirus campaign. That hasn’t stopped Dr. Zhang Wenhong.

Dr. Zhang, an infectious-disease specialist and perhaps China’s most trusted voice on Covid-19, has spoken out publicly against excessive lockdowns, though he hasn’t criticized individual cities. Fighting the pandemic, he likes to say, is like “catching mice in a china shop.”

“We hope that our pandemic prevention measures won’t affect public life too much,” Dr. Zhang wrote on Jan. 24, after a second wave of infections prompted tough clampdowns.

video a few days later, “life would be too hard.”

Dr. Zhang may be China’s closest analogue to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the American infectious-disease specialist who became the public face of stopping the coronavirus amid the chaos of the Trump administration. A consummate technocrat, Dr. Zhang comes across as neither political nor ideological. Yet, by offering his expert opinions straight, he pushes back against the authoritarian instinct in a system that often overreacts with draconian measures.

A top academic at Fudan University in Shanghai and a member of the Communist Party, Dr. Zhang led Shanghai’s expert panel on Covid-19, giving him considerable authority over the city’s response.

propaganda, conspiracy theories and crude nationalism.

viewed more than 860 million times on his department’s official WeChat account alone.

Maintaining a high profile in China often requires discretion. Late last year, Jack Ma, the technology billionaire, publicly criticized regulators. The authorities quickly swooped down on his business empire.

Dr. Zhang doesn’t challenge the government, but neither does he always toe the official line. Late last year, some Chinese officials pointed to findings that the virus had been found on the packaging of imported food, suggesting that the coronavirus may have been brought to China from overseas. Dr. Zhang has told his audience not to worry about it: “The chance of catching the virus from imported goods,” he said, “is lower than dying in a plane crash.”

“I’m not going to hide the information because I’m worried that I could say something wrong and cause some controversies,” he said over the summer. “We always share what we know.”

responded that protein helps build the immune system.

Still, he has kept a high profile without drawing major ire from the government or sustained criticism from the nationalists. Some of that stems from China’s pride in quickly containing the coronavirus. Dr. Zhang, who played a role in that, has won a number of awards from official groups.

In watching his speeches, I found another key to his sustained appeal. In his impromptu speech at a national teaching award ceremony in September, he said the essence of education is acknowledging human dignity. Mr. Zhang appeals to the humanity of his audience and, by admitting his own foibles, shows the authorities and the public that he is merely human, too.

In one speech, he mentioned that some victims of avian flu had caught it from taking care of their infected loved ones, and that female patients were more likely to infect their doting mothers than their absent husbands. “At that moment,” he told the audience, “I lost faith in romantic love.”

said, “I would have worked on my deltoid.”

interview last June, a reporter asked him whether anybody had reminded him to be mindful of his status as an expert and the head of an expert government panel.

“People are smart,” he responded. “They know whether you’re telling them truth or lies.”

When he gets public accolades, he often uses the occasion to highlight his causes, like more funding for infectious-disease research and for increasing the public awareness of tuberculosis and hepatitis B, two of the most common infectious diseases in China.

He also talks about people who deserved more attention, like the women among the pandemic responders whose role has often taken a back seat to the men’s in the media. “Men are on camera more,” he said at a forum on the subject, “but women did more work.”

Then he turned to the female medical workers, and bowed.

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Biden Plans Messaging Blitz to Sell Economic Aid Plan

Still, Biden administration officials are mindful that political opposition could easily fester and grow if they do not clearly explain the contents — and direct benefits — of a bill that will be the second-largest economic aid package in American history, trailing only the initial bill that lawmakers approved under Mr. Trump last year as the worsening pandemic pushed the nation into recession.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

Republicans continued to attack the bill on the House floor on Wednesday, casting it as overly expensive, ineffectively targeted and bloated with longstanding liberal priorities unrelated to the pandemic.

“Because Democrats chose to prioritize their political ambitions instead of the working class,” Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said in a news release, “they just passed the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons.”

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of the few Democrats in the chamber to represent a state Mr. Biden lost to Mr. Trump in 2020, called the Republican attacks “lies” and said they showed why Democrats needed to remind voters of the benefits to people and businesses included in the bill.

“You’ve got to sell it, because they’re going to lie about everything,” Mr. Brown said. “The sale is an easy sell, but you need to continue to remind” voters about the contents of the package, he said.

With that in mind, Mr. Biden is scheduled to follow his speech on Thursday with travel to states led by both Democratic and Republican governors in the coming weeks to begin the sales pitch. Among the options being considered, if they can be done safely during the pandemic, are town-hall-style events that allow the president to directly take questions from people.

The main message, according to Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, will be an echo of one of Mr. Biden’s chief campaign promises: “Help is on the way.”

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