President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is doubling Pfizer’s purchases of COVID-19 shots to share 1 billion doses with the world as he vaccinates 70% of the global population within the next year accepts the goal.
The United States’ commitment is a cornerstone of a global immunization summit, Biden is convening on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where he plans to inspire good countries to do more to get the coronavirus under control.
World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are becoming increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccination and the disparity in access to shots between residents of rich and poor countries.
The US purchase will bring the total US vaccination commitment by 2022 to more than 1.1 billion doses, according to two senior Biden administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s comments. There have been at least 160 million shots supplied by the US. Distributed in over 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined.
The latest purchases represent only a fraction of what is needed to meet the target of immunizing 70% of the global population – and 70% of each nation’s citizens – at next September’s UN meeting. It is a goal pushed by global aid groups that Biden will put his weight behind.
The White House said Biden would use the summit to persuade other countries to “commit to a high level of ambition” in their vaccine sharing plans, including challenges specific to them. Officials said the White House would publicly release targets for endowed countries and nonprofits once the summit ends.
The US response has come under criticism for being too modest, especially as the administration advocates providing booster shots to millions of Americans before vulnerable people in poor countries receive the first dose.
“We have seen the failures of multilateralism to respond in an equitable, coordinated manner in the most acute moments. The current difference between nations regarding the vaccination process is unheard of,” Colombian President Ivan Duque said at the United Nations on Tuesday.
More than 5.9 billion COVID-19 doses have been administered globally in the past year, which is approximately 43% of the global population. But there are huge disparities in distribution, with many low-income nations struggling to vaccinate even the most vulnerable part of their populations, and some still exceed 2% to 3% vaccination rates.
In remarks at the United Nations, Biden on Tuesday took credit for sharing more than 160 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries, including 130 million surplus doses and the first installment of more than 500 million shots that the US will deliver to the rest of the world. is buying. World.
Other leaders have already made it clear that this is not enough.
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said the “victory” of rapid vaccine development was offset by the political “failure” that produced unequal distribution. “In science, cooperation prevailed; In politics, individualism. In science, shared information reigned; In politics, reserve. In science, teamwork is key; In politics, isolated efforts,” Pinera said.
The World Health Organization says only 15% of the promised donations of vaccines – from wealthy countries that have access to large quantities – have been distributed. The UN health agency has said it wants countries to “immediately” deliver on their dose-sharing promises and make shots available for programs that benefit poor countries, and Africa in particular.
COVAX, the United Nations-backed program to ship vaccines to all countries, is grappling with production issues, supply shortages and a near-cornered market for vaccines by wealthy countries.
The WHO has urged vaccine makers to prioritize COVAX and make their supply schedules public. It has also appealed to wealthy countries to avoid a widespread rollout of booster shots so that doses can be made available to health care workers and vulnerable people in developing countries. Such calls have largely been ignored.
COVAX has missed nearly all of its vaccine-sharing goals. Its managers have also downplayed their ambitions to send vaccines by the end of this year, from the original target of about 2 billion doses worldwide now expected to 1.4 billion. He could have missed the mark.
As of Tuesday, COVAX had shipped more than 296 million doses to 141 countries.
The 70% global target is ambitious, not least because of American experience.
Biden had set a goal to vaccinate 70% of the US adult population by July 4, but persistent vaccine hesitation contributed to the nation not meeting that goal until a month later. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 64% of the entire US population has received at least one dose and less than 55% have been fully vaccinated.
U.S. officials expect those figures to increase in the coming months, both by encouraging the use of vaccination mandates and vaccinating children once regulators approve shots for the under-12 population.
Aid groups have warned that persistent inequalities are exacerbating the global pandemic, and could lead to new and more dangerous forms. The delta variant, which is widespread throughout the US, has proven to be more permeable than the original strain, although current vaccines have been effective in preventing nearly all serious illness and death.