President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will double its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines to send to other countries, bringing the pledged donations to a total of 1.1 billion doses.
Speaking at a virtual international summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday, Biden described the ramping up US vaccine donations as a “historic commitment”.
“The United States is buying another half a billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low- and middle-income countries around the world,” he said.
The US president added that the new doses will all be shipped by this time next year.
Biden stressed the need for global cooperation to defeat COVID-19 and improve preparedness for future pandemics. He called on wealthier nations to donate, not sell, vaccine doses to lower-income countries, saying that the US is making the donations “with no political strings attached”.
“We’re not going to solve this crisis with half measures or middle-of-the-road ambitions,” Biden said. “We need to go big. And we need to do our part – governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, philanthropists.”
He also announced a partnership with the European Union to “work more closely” with the bloc on expanding global vaccination.
Addressing the UNGA on Tuesday, Biden called for a “collective act of science and political will” to combat the pandemic.
“We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, test, treatments to save lives around the world,” he said, adding the US had already shipped more than 160 million vaccine doses to 100 countries.
The appeal came as world leaders, aid groups and global health organisations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots between residents of wealthier and poorer nations.
Still, the purchase announced by the US reflects only a fraction of what will be necessary to meet a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the global population – and 70 percent of the citizens of each nation – by next September’s UN meeting.
More than 5.9 billion COVID-19 doses have been administered globally during the past year, representing about 43 percent of the global population.
But there are vast disparities in distribution, with many lower-income nations struggling to vaccinate even the most vulnerable share of their populations, and some yet to exceed 2 to 3 percent vaccination rates.