June 11, 2021
In a speech set to be delivered on Thursday, June 10, on the eve G7 Cornwall Summit in the United Kingdom, President Joe Biden plans to outline plans for the United States to donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to about 100 nations worldwide over the next year—in addition to the 80 million doses he already has pledged will be delivered by the end of this month.
According to a report by The New York Times, in making the announcement, the president will challenge his fellow G-7 leaders— from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—to step up vaccine distribution in their own nations and in others in order to beat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House reached the deal just in time for Biden’s eight-day European trip, which offers his first opportunity to reassert the United States as a world leader and restore relations that were badly frayed by former President Donald Trump.
“We have to end COVID-19, not just at home, which we’re doing, but everywhere,” Biden told American troops after landing at R.A.F. Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, on June 9. “There’s no wall high enough to keep us safe from this pandemic or the next biological threat we face, and there will be others. It requires coordinated multilateral action.”
People familiar with the Pfizer deal said the United States would pay for the doses at a “not-for-profit” price. The first 200 million doses will be distributed by the end of this year, followed by 300 million by next June, they said. The doses will be distributed through COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing initiative.
Biden is in Europe for a week to attend the NATO and Group of 7 summits and to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Geneva. In a statement on Wednesday, Jeffrey Zients, the White House official in charge of devising a global vaccination strategy, said Biden would “rally the world’s democracies around solving this crisis globally, with America leading the way to create the arsenal of vaccines that will be critical in our global fight against Covid-19.”
According to the Times, the White House is trying to spotlight its success in fighting the pandemic — particularly its vaccination campaign — and use that success as a diplomatic tool, especially as China and Russia seek to do the same. Mr. Biden has been insistent that, unlike China and Russia, which have been sharing their vaccines with dozens of countries, the United States will not seek to extract promises from countries receiving American-made vaccines.
The 500 million doses still fall far short of the 11 billion the World Health Organization estimates are needed to vaccinate the world, but significantly exceed what the United States has committed to share so far. Other nations have been pleading with the United States to give up some of its abundant vaccine supplies. Less than 1% of people are fully vaccinated in a number of African countries, compared with 42% in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Advocates for global health welcomed the news, but reiterated their stance that it is not enough for the United States to simply give vaccine away. They say the Biden Administration must create the conditions for other countries to manufacture vaccines on their own, including transferring technology to make the doses.
“The world needs urgent new manufacturing to produce billions more doses within a year, not just commitments to buy the planned inadequate supply,” Peter Maybarduk, the director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said in a statement. He added, “We have yet to see a plan from the U.S. government or the G7 of the needed ambition or urgency to make billions more doses and end the pandemic.”
The deal with Pfizer has the potential to open the door to similar agreements with other vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna, whose vaccine was developed with American tax dollars—unlike Pfizer’s. In addition, the Biden administration has brokered a deal in which Merck will help produce Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, and those doses might be available for overseas use.
The United States has already contracted to buy 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two shots, for distribution in the United States; the 500 million doses are in addition to that, according to people familiar with the deal.
Research contact: @nytimes