The US has promised to double its purchase of Pfizer vaccines for low and middle-income countries pushing its commitment to a total of 1.1 billion doses aid to the developing countries.
Speaking at a virtual international summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), President Joe Biden described the ramping up of 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. The new doses will all be shipped by this time next year,” he said.
Biden stressed the need for global cooperation to defeat Covid-19 and improve preparedness for future pandemics.
He called on rich countries 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, and philanthropists.”
He also announced a partnership with the European Union to “work more closely” with the bloc on expanding global vaccination.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) welcomed the latest pledge but said more needed to be done to get the vaccines to where they needed to be.
“At MSF, we see each and every day that people all over the world remain in desperate need of COVID-19 vaccines, including health care workers and people who are the most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus,” Dr Carrie Teicher, MSF-USA’s director of programmes said in a statement.
Japan also announced it would double its Covid-19 vaccine donations to about 60 million doses, while Italy said it planned to give other countries 45 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge.
At the same forum, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said the Asian giant aimed to provide two billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to the world by the end of the year.
More than 5.9 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally during the past year, representing about 43 per cent of the global population.
However, 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 per cent vaccination rates.
World leaders have committed to vaccinating 70 per cent of the global population by this time next year, but have not detailed how they plan to achieve that goal.
The UN health agency has said it wants countries to fulfill their dose-sharing pledges “immediately” and make shots available for programmes that benefit poor countries and Africa, in particular.
COVAX, the UN-backed programme designed to ensure the fair distribution of vaccines has struggled with production issues, supply shortages, and a near-cornering of the market for vaccines by the wealthy nations, missing almost all of its short-term distribution targets.