The United States promised on Wednesday to buy 500 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine to donate to other countries as it is under increasing pressure to share its supply with the rest of the world.
President Joe Biden made the announcement during a virtual summit aimed at boosting global coronavirus vaccination rates and mobilizing world leaders to do more.
“To beat the pandemic here we have to beat it everywhere,” Biden said at the opening of the summit, which included leaders from Britain, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. .
“This is a hands-on crisis,” Biden said of the pandemic that has raged since early 2020, killing more than 4,900,000 people.
The additional vaccines will push US donations to more than 1.1 billion doses, well below the 5,000 to 6 billion doses that world health experts say are needed by the poorest countries. Delivery of the new section will begin in January.
Health experts say rich countries have not done enough and have criticized the United States in particular for planning booster shots for fully vaccinated Americans, while much of the world’s population still does not have access to vaccines.
They say that planned dose donations in the US are welcome but insufficient, pointing out that the Pfizer vaccine is difficult to scale up and manage in poorer countries, which lack a sophisticated infrastructure to store and ship injections.
“We will need 6 to 9 billion doses of vaccines” to inoculate the developing world, said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University in Texas.
“Donations alone are not enough to end this pandemic. The vast majority of donation promises have not materialized so far,” said Carrie Teicher, program director for Doctors Without Borders.
Developing country leaders have warned that rich country hoarding of vaccines could lead to
Biden said the United States would provide $ 370 million “to support the administration of these vaccines” and more than $ 380 million to help the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) manage vaccine distribution in regions of greatest need.
The Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE vaccines will be manufactured in the United States and shipped to low- and lower-middle-income countries. A source familiar with the matter said the US government would pay about $ 7 per dose.
With more than 670,000 people killed by COVID-19 in the United States, Biden has made it clear that his priority has been to vaccinate Americans. But the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and outrage over imbalances in vaccine distribution have pressured Washington to do more.
“For every injection we have given to date in the United States, we have now committed to doing three injections in the rest of the world,” Biden said.
In June, the Biden administration agreed to purchase and donate 500 million doses. Under the terms of that contract, the United States will pay Pfizer and BioNTech about $ 3.5 billion, or $ 7 per dose for the injections.
The COVAX facility, supported by the World Health Organization and GAVI, has delivered more than 286 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 141 countries, GAVI data shows. In September, the organizations managing the facility had to cut their 2021 delivery target by nearly 30% to 1.425 million doses.
Vaccination rates in some countries, including Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are less than 1%, a Reuters tracker shows.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres rebuked world leaders Tuesday for the uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as “obscenity” and giving the world an “F for ethics.”
The delays in vaccinations mean that the world population will be “exposed to new variants that will attack us with greater ferocity,” Colombian President Iván Duque said on Wednesday. “Global immunity requires solidarity, so hoarding cannot exist in the face of the needs of others,” Duque said.
The virtual summit also addressed oxygen shortages and drug availability and preparing for a future pandemic. When it comes to vaccines, Biden’s team advocates a goal of vaccinating 70% of the country’s population by this time next year.
Deliveries of the initial 500 million doses began in August, with the total of 1 billion doses expected to be delivered by the end of September 2022, according to a statement from Pfizer and BioNtech.
The doses will be prepared at Pfizer’s facilities in the US and delivered to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and 55 African Union member states.
A consortium of pharmaceutical industry trade groups said in a statement Wednesday that global vaccine production is enough to provide reinforcements in rich countries and donations to the developing world in 2021.
The leaders of the major economies of the Group of Seven announced a plan in June to donate 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the poorest nations. That included the first tranche of 500 million promised by the United States. The Biden White House wants other wealthy nations to donate more as well.
“Frankly, the rest of the world needs to step up and do more,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.