Biden doubles US global donation of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines

Commitment the cornerstone of US president's vaccination summit on sidelines of UNGA

US President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual Covid-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus. AP
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US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he is doubling the US global donation of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines to one billion as he embraced the goal to fully inoculate 70 per cent of the world's population within the next year.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis," Mr Biden said. "America will become the arsenal of vaccines, as we were the arsenal for democracy during World War II."

The announcement was the cornerstone of the global vaccination summit that Mr Biden virtually hosted on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Mr Biden called on other rich nations to accelerate global vaccine donations and added that the US will provide $370 million to help administer shots.

“This is a global tragedy” Mr Biden said. “And we’re not going to solve this crisis with half-measures and middle-of-the-road ambitions. We need to go big and we need to do our part.”

He stressed that vaccine donations must also come with no "political" strings attached, referencing donations made by China and Russia that the US claims have come with affixed demands.

The purchase will bring the US vaccine donation total to more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022.

Still, the purchase is only a fraction of what will be needed to meet the UN's goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the world's population by next September. It is a target pushed by global aid groups that Mr Biden will throw his weight behind.

At least 160 million shots supplied to the US to date have been distributed to 100 countries.

The US will donate doses of the vaccine to 92 middle- and lower-income countries as defined by the Covax Advanced Market Commitment and the 55 member states of the African Union, Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement on Wednesday.

World leaders, aid groups and global health organisations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots between residents of wealthier and poorer nations.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Tuesday that the “triumph” of speedy vaccine development was offset by political “failure” that produced inequitable distribution.

Colombian President Ivan Duque added: “The existing gaps between nations with regard to the vaccination process are unheard of.”

The global vaccine roll-out has been a leading priority for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who decried its inequity as an “obscenity” during his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.

“On the one hand, we see the vaccines developed in record time - a victory of science and human ingenuity. On the other hand, we see that triumph undone by the tragedy of a lack of political will, selfishness and mistrust,” Mr Guterres said.

The secretary general noted in his speech that 90 per cent of Africans have still not received their first dose.

The existing gaps between nations with regard to the vaccination process are unheard of
Colombian President Ivan Duque

More than 5.9 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally over the past year, representing 43 per cent of the world's population. But lower-income countries have struggled to inoculate their citizens, with some vaccination rates having yet to exceed 2 to 3 per cent.

The Biden administration has drawn criticism from the World Health Organisation and other advocates as it has pushed a booster roll-out of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, whose proposal last week received a negative review from the Food and Drug Administration.

The WHO said any plans to provide boosters to the general population should be held until more people worldwide have been vaccinated.

Only 15 per cent of promised vaccine donations have been delivered to poorer countries, the WHO said.

Updated: September 22, 2021, 3:55 PM