US to provide 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to other nations

Vaccines to be donated to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

President Joe Biden talks to reporters before boarding Air Force One as he departs to attend the G7 Summit in England, the first foreign trip of his presidency [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The Biden administration has reached an agreement with the United States vaccine makers to provide 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 100 countries over the next year.

As he prepared for a round of summit meetings with European leaders, President Joe Biden was under pressure to do more to make US vaccines available to poorer nations.

Biden is set to announce the plan at a three-day summit meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) nations to be held in Cornwall, United Kingdom, set to begin on June 10, according to people who spoke to The Washington Post.

Biden was asked by a reporter as he boarded Air Force One for the flight to the UK if he had a vaccination strategy for the world. “I have one, and I’ll be announcing it,” Biden said.

The US will pay “not-for-profit” prices to Pfizer and BioNTech for supplies of the vaccines with 200 million doses to be distributed this year and 300 million more by the middle of next year, according to The New York Times.

The COVID-19 vaccine doses would be procured by the US government and then donated to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year, The Associated Press and Reuters news agencies reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

How to solve the disparity in vaccine availability between wealthy industrialised nations and poorer developing countries has been at the front of the G7’s agenda.

Even as large numbers of the US and UK populations have received vaccines and cases of COVID-19 have declined, the pandemic continues to rage elsewhere with Brazil and India suffering large numbers of deaths.

The World Health Organization has estimated 11 billion doses will be needed to vaccinate the world.

Last week, Biden had pledged to share 80 million vaccine doses with other countries with most of those to be distributed by COVAX, a global alliance of multilateral agencies.

Biden’s administration is struggling to meet its goal of getting 70 percent of US adults vaccinated by July 4, the nation’s Independence Day.

The US has administered 303 million vaccine jabs to more than 171 million people who have received at least one dose, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US number includes 140 million who are fully vaccinated with two doses, or about 42 percent of the US population, according to CDC data.

The Pan American Health Organization has warned Latin America’s 2021 COVID-19 surge could be worse than in 2020. Cases of the virus are rising across South and Central America.

The governments of India, which set a grim record of 4,529 daily deaths on May 19, and Brazil, which saw more than 2,500 people die on June 2, have been scrambling to procure more vaccine doses.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies