US to buy 500 million Pfizer vaccines to share through Covax programme

Credit: PA

The US will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to give to 92 lower income countries and the African Union through the global Covax alliance over the next year.

President Joe Biden is set to make the announcement on Thursday in a speech before the start of the G7 summit. US officials say Biden will include a direct request to his fellow G7 leaders to commit to a similar plan.Two hundred million doses — enough to fully protect 100 million people — would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022, sources said.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive on Air Force One at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday that Biden was committed to sharing vaccines because it was in the public health and strategic interests of the US.

As Biden embarks on his first foreign trip, he is aiming to show “that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere”, Sullivan said.

“As he said in his joint session (address), we were the ‘arsenal of democracy’ in World War Two”, Sullivan said. “We’re going to be the ‘arsenal of vaccines’ over this next period to help end the pandemic”.

The US has faced mounting pressure to outline its global vaccine sharing plan. Inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced, and the demand for shots in the US — where nearly 64% of adults have received at least one dose — has dropped.

The announcement comes a week after the White House unveiled its plans to donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas, mostly through the United Nations-backed Covax programme, promising jabs for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others at a time of glaring shortages abroad.

Overall, the White House has announced plans to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through Covax. Officials say a quarter of the nation’s excess will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the US to share directly with allies and partners.

The White House has also directed doses to allies including South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine.

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