President Biden, under pressure to deal with the global coronavirus vaccine shortage, announced Thursday that the United States will purchase 500 million doses of the vaccine and donate them to around 100 low- and middle-income countries over the course of next year.
“This is our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as possible,” Biden said in a speech in England ahead of the Group of 7 Rich Democracies meeting. “When we see people suffering and suffering all over the world, we seek to help in any way we can. “
In recent months, rich countries with robust immunization campaigns have quickly turned to inoculating large swathes of their populations, but much of the world, especially Africa, is far behind, raising fears of more waves. deadly that could overwhelm fragile health systems and spawn viral variants.
Now, as G7 leaders prepare to meet in England from Friday, they pledge to help close that gap. Mr Biden said the G7 will announce a broader global strategy to contain the pandemic.
“America knows firsthand the tragedies of this pandemic,” he added, having suffered more than 600,000 deaths – “more deaths from Covid-19 in the United States than from World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and September 11, combined. “
The 500 million-dose Pfizer-BioNTech donation is by far the largest ever made by a single country, but it would only completely inoculate about 3% of the world’s population. The United States will pay $ 3.5 billion for Pfizer-BioNTech shots, around $ 7 apiece, which Pfizer has described as a “non-profit” price – far less than the $ 20 it paid. for home use.
“The United States is providing these half a billion doses without any strings attached,” Biden said. “We are doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic. That’s it. Period.”
The first 200 million doses will be distributed by the end of this year, followed by 300 million by next June, Biden and Pfizer said. The doses will be distributed through Covax, the international vaccine sharing initiative, which has fallen behind the expected rate of dose distribution.
In a statement on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the summit as Britain takes over the G7 presidency this year, said it was crucial to use this moment for unified action against the pandemic.
“The world needs this meeting,” he said. “We have to be honest: international order and solidarity have been severely shaken by the Covid. Nations have been reduced to the beggar-my-neighbor tactic in the desperate search for PPE, medicine – and, finally, vaccines, ”he added, referring to personal protective equipment.
He said the time had come to “put those days behind us”.
“Now is the time for the world’s largest and most technologically advanced democracies to shoulder their responsibilities and immunize the world, because no one can be properly protected until everyone has been protected,” he added.
“We need to end Covid-19, not just at home which we are doing, but everywhere,” Mr Biden told US troops at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England on Wednesday evening. “There isn’t a wall high enough to protect us from this pandemic or the next biological threat we face, and there will be more. This requires coordinated multilateral action.