June 11, 2021 -- The Biden administration will buy and donate 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses in an effort to inoculate more of the global population.
An initial 200 million doses will be distributed between August and the end of this year, with the remaining 300 million to come during the first half of 2022. The doses will be reserved for low- and middle-income countries and distributed by Covax, the WHO-backed initiative to share COVID-19 vaccines across the world.
President Joe Biden officially announced the deal on Thursday ahead of the Group of Seven summit in the U.K. Joined by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Biden said the donation would “supercharge” the battle against the coronavirus, according to Reuters. Pfizer is supplying the doses at a “not-for-profit” price in a $3.5 billion deal with the U.S. G-7 leaders later announced they would donate a total of 1 billion vaccine doses.
“The United States is providing these half billion doses with no strings attached. No strings attached,” Biden said. “Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We’re doing this to save lives.”
The three-day G-7 summit, scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday, will include discussions about the pandemic, the economy, and climate change, according to CNBC. Biden’s donation announcement is expected to spur other G-7 leaders to donate as well.
Biden added that G-7 leaders will announce the “full scope of our commitment” to address the pandemic on Friday, according to NBC News.
Previously, the Biden administration said it would share 80 million vaccine doses worldwide by the end of June, The Washington Post.reported. Last week, the White House provided plans for how it would allocate 25 million doses, with about 19 million going to Covax. The other 6 million will be shared directly with countries under severe COVID-19 outbreaks, such as India. The 500 million Pfizer doses will come in addition to the 80 million already pledged.
The calls to share vaccines have grown stronger in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have declined in the U.S. and surged in other countries, the newspaper reported. More than half of the populations in the U.S. and U.K. have been vaccinated, as compared with less than 2% in Africa.
Covax plans to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of the year, with the goal of inoculating 20% of the population in countries of need, the newspaper reported, though it may not meet that goal. So far, the initiative has delivered about 82 million doses to 129 countries.
Biden has tapped Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, to handle the U.S. global vaccination strategy, the newspaper reported. Zients has worked on the Pfizer deal for more than a month, and the White House wanted to announce it during the G-7 summit.
“These Pfizer doses will go to many countries,” Thomas Bolyky, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of its global health program, told The Washington Post.
“The big question is, in what order and in what amount?” he said. “That will have significant bearing on what the public health impact of the commitment will be.”