U.S. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday (22/9) buying more than 500 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for developing countries over the next year, and stated “governments can do a lot, but they can’t do it all alone.”
America has previously committed more than 500 million doses manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for developing countries at the end of June next year.
Tuesday’s announcement increased US vaccine purchase commitments for other countries to 1.1 billion doses.
Biden announced the donation of additional doses, also from Pfizer, at a virtual summit on COVID-19 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly attended by leaders from the UK, Canada, Indonesia, South Africa and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Biden backed the WHO’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the world’s population within the next year and used the announcement to encourage other wealthy countries to step up efforts to contain the infection.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in June that achieving the WHO’s global vaccination goal would require 11 billion doses.
In his speech to the United Nations Tuesday, Biden touted the more than 160 million doses the US has distributed to more than 100 countries, more doses than all other countries’ contributions combined.
“For every injection we give to Americans, to date, we have contributed three injections globally,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken joked Wednesday before Biden’s announcement.
Last year, more than 5.9 billion doses were administered globally, covering about 43% of the world’s population. But huge differences in distribution make it difficult for many low-income countries to vaccinate their most vulnerable citizens.
World leaders and global organizations are increasingly critical of the differences and slowness of vaccination. Despite America’s response, they complain that the aid is inadequate – especially as the US is pushing booster injections for its citizens before vulnerable people in poor countries get their first doses. [my/ka]