Last week at the UN General Assembly’s virtual COVID-19 summit on the margins, US President Joe Biden announced an additional donation of 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to low-income and lower-middle-income countries, bringing the total US pledge . Donations for 1.1 billion shots.
“I made – and I am keeping – the promise that America will become the arsenal of vaccines as we were the arsenal of democracy during World War II,” Biden said at the summit.
Here are some facts and context surrounding that claim.
How many doses has the US promised and shipped?
Of the 1.1 billion doses the US has promised, about 172 million have been shipped to more than 100 countries, according to the State Department.
Most are distributed through COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, Gavi, co-led by the Vaccine Alliance; World Health Organization; and the Coalition for Pandemic Preparedness Innovations, and through some bilateral agreements.
This makes the US the global leader in both mortgaged and shipped supplements, according to data compiled by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center as of October 1.
The next largest pledges come from the European Union (500 million), France (120 million), and the United Kingdom, Germany and China (100 million each).
The countries that have sent the most donations after the US are China (47 million), the European Union (33.8 million), Japan (21.5 million) and Germany (9.9 million).
The pledged 1.1 billion doses are in line with the administration’s commitment to donate three shots for every shot administered domestically. 392 million shots have been given in the US to date
The question is when will the US meet its remaining commitment of about 1 billion doses.
“The claim of the world to have an arsenal of vaccines is a matter of great discussion,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. “It would be great to see it put into action.”
The US has shipped only 15 percent of the 1.1 billion doses it promised. It is lagging behind other countries with significantly less ambitious charity goals, including China (46%), Japan (30%) and France (8%).
When and to whom will the rest be sent?
The White House said another 200 million doses would be released by the end of the year, and the remaining 800 million would be dispatched by September 2022.
“The world can’t wait that long,” said Matthew Kavanaugh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University. He said the US must now accelerate shipments, especially if it meets its goal of supporting the WHO’s goal of fully vaccinated at least 70% of the world’s population in every country and income group by September 2022. wants to do
The administration has not provided any plans identifying the countries earmarked for future shipments. Jeremy Konandik, executive director of the US Agency for International Development’s COVID-19 task force, said countries have already signed up with COVAX and are ready to receive and distribute vaccines. Those who will not be given vaccines will be supplied with vaccines as their ability to receive them increases.
“It’s really hard to project into that full-time period where any individual country will shake,” Konyndyk said. “We are working on it and making adjustments as we go depending on how the pandemic develops.”
How much surplus does America have?
The administration does not make public how many doses it has in reserve and what it has acquired for domestic needs in vaccine manufacturers’ production pipelines. An administration official told the VOA that the numbers are rising steadily.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 82 million doses have been distributed but not yet administered across the country. Humanitarian organizations allege that America is sitting on an even bigger stockpile.
“They should be getting these doses now – and by the end of the year the US will have 593 million additional doses – out the door and in people’s arms,” Dr. Carey said. Teacher, director of programs for Doctors Without Borders USA, responding to Biden’s announcement of an additional 500 million doses.
Data compiled by analytics company Airfinity on COVID-19 vaccine stocks in the US, EU, UK, Canada and China – the countries with the largest surpluses – show more than 670 million doses by the end of September. The launch extends to countries that offer booster shots to people 12 years of age and older six months after their second dose.
Airfinity data also predicts that 241 million doses of vaccines stockpiled in the Group of Seven major industrialized countries will be exhausted by December without immediate redistribution.
Is the global vaccine shortage a question of production capacity or distribution?
Airfinity data shows that vaccine manufacturers currently produce 1.5 billion doses per month. It forecasts a total global production of 12.2 billion doses for 2021, of which 6.5 billion are Western vaccines and 5.7 billion are Chinese.
This would mean the WHO-set target of 11.3 billion doses needed to vaccinate the world’s population could be achieved in months, provided that wealthier nations get booster shots and against new variants before low-income countries get them. Don’t deplete your reserves to provide security. His first shot.
“Wealer countries have bought up most of the world’s supply of vaccines and have not moved so quickly in creating a global plan to distribute and distribute these vaccines around the world,” said Sarah Swinehart, spokeswoman for One Campaign. Organization formed to fight poverty and preventable diseases.
According to the WHO, high-income countries have now given about 100 doses for every 100 people, while low-income countries have given only 1.5 doses.
If there is high production capacity, why are the producers not exporting them?
“If we are going to be the vaccine arsenal, we have to actually export the vaccines, not just donate them once,” said Udayakumar of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. Aside from the doses donated by the administration, US vaccine producers have exported 161 million doses for sale, far below China (1.1 billion) and the European Union (about 800 million).
Most exports still go to high-income countries, and some export restrictions are still in place. This week, the European Union expanded a mechanism to potentially limit exports of the vaccine until the end of 2021 because of a block requirement to secure booster shots.
India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, halted exports in April to focus on vaccinating its population as infections escalate. It will resume exports in October.
WHO is also urging to scale up manufacturing through technology transfer. In June, it announced the first COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Center to be set up in South Africa.
The world health body also called for the suspension of intellectual property rights for vaccines in the so-called trade-related aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, or TRIPS exemption, at the WTO so that countries can access vaccine “recipes” and fear of legal action. Produce your own without
The TRIPS waiver proposal, presented by South Africa and India in October 2020, is supported by more than 100 countries, 100 Nobel laureates and leading human rights groups, but it cannot proceed without the consent of all WTO members. The European Union, Britain and Switzerland oppose this exemption.
Did the US not support the TRIPS exemption?
“We haven’t seen the full weight of the US diplomatic corps on this topic,” said Matthew Rose, director of US policy and advocacy for the Health Global Access Project. “In many of the TRIPS Council meetings, the US has been mostly silent in reaching a consensus and moving the council towards text-based dialogue,” he said.
In May, the US said it broadly supports the proposal to pardon TRIPS, but has since declined to support the proposal, as it helps prolong negotiations.
Instead of leading, Abby Maxman, president and CEO of Oxfam Americas, an organization that aims to end global poverty, said the Biden administration has largely stayed away from the TRIPS talks. “We cannot vaccinate 70% of the world with the same equipment that has vaccinated only 1% of Africa so far.”
The office of US Trade Representative Catherine Tai, who is leading the TRIPS exemption talks at the World Trade Organization, did not respond to a request for comment.
The TRIPS exemption received little attention at the COVID-19 summit convened by Biden. Except for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, no other leader of wealthy countries, including Biden, mentioned it in their remarks.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA that the administration expects the TRIPS exemption talks to be a long process and that it “has never been the only basket we are focusing on.”
VOA’s Nike Ching contributed to this report.