The White House on Thursday formally announced its plan to purchase and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 92 poorer countries and the African Union, dubbing it the “largest-ever purchase and donation of vaccines by a single country and a commitment by the American people to help protect people around the world from COVID-19.”
President Biden will outline the plan in remarks from Cornwall, England, on the eve of the Group of Seven nations summit.
News of the donation, which broke Wednesday, comes amid intense pressure on the U.S. and other wealthy nations to help low-income countries get vaccinated.
The coronavirus has killed 3.7 million people globally and has shown an ability to mutate into fast-moving variants, so there is a push to stamp it out everywhere
Some health experts want the G-7 countries to donate at least 1 billion and preferably 2 billion doses by 2022.
The U.S. said 200 million of its committed doses will be dispatched this year and 300 million in the first half of next year through COVAX, the main vaccine-sharing alliance for the globe.
The administration says the donation is a triumph of American manufacturing. The doses will be produced at four U.S. plants: in Kalamazoo, Michigan, employing more than 3,000 workers; McPherson, Kansas, with 2,000; Chesterfield, Missouri, with 700; and Andover, Massachusetts, with 1,800.
The administration said wealthier countries, including the U.S., are ahead in the global vaccine push, with 64% of American adults receiving at least one shot.
“Daily death rates are lower than at any point in the pandemic, and our economy is rebounding. Now, the United States is using the power of our democracy, the ingenuity of American scientists, and the strength of American manufacturing to beat the pandemic globally by helping to vaccinate the world,” the White House said.
“President Biden has been clear that borders cannot keep this pandemic at bay and has vowed that our nation will be the arsenal of vaccines,” it added. “The historic step the president will announce today therefore protects the health of the American people and the people throughout the world who will benefit from these life-saving vaccines.”
The Pfizer vaccine was the first one approved for emergency use in the U.S. — in December, during the Trump administration.
A full course requires two doses, so 500 million is enough to vaccinate 250 million people.
Its messenger RNA technology uses a snippet of genetic code that teaches the body to create imposters of the coronavirus’ spike protein, so the body knows how to fight the real thing. It’s proven effective against the original strain of the coronavirus and known variants.
“Tens of millions of Americans have benefited from these safe and effective vaccines and this historic donation will bring the life-saving benefits these vaccines provide to some of the most vulnerable populations around the world,” the White House said.