Biden pledges 500 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses as U.S. pressured to do more

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden will push world leaders on Wednesday to do more to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, and announce a U.S. pledge to buy 500 million more vaccine doses to donate to other countries.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool

Holding a virtual summit to boost global vaccination rates, Biden hopes to show he is leading by example with the pledge here, which will bring U.S. donations to the rest of the world up to more than 1.1 billion doses.

The vaccines from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE will be made in the United States and shipped to low and lower middle-income countries starting in January, a U.S. senior administration official said ahead of the announcement.

“This is a huge commitment by the U.S. In fact for every one shot we have administered in this country to date, we are now donating three shots to other countries,” the official told reporters.

A source familiar with the issue said the government would pay some $7 per dose.

In June, the Biden administration agreed to buy and donate 500 million doses of the vaccine. Under the terms of that contract, the United States will pay Pfizer and BioNTech around $3.5 billion or $7 a dose for the shots.

The United States has come under criticism for planning booster shots to fully vaccinated Americans while millions of people around the world still do not have access to the life-saving vaccines.

Deliveries of the initial 500 million doses began in August, and the total one billion doses are expected to be delivered by the end of September 2022, according to a statement from Pfizer and BioNtech. The dose will be made in Pfizer’s U.S. facilities, and delivered to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the 55 member states of the African Union.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reprimanded world leaders here on Tuesday for the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as an “obscenity” and giving the globe an “F in Ethics.”

The virtual summit will focus on vaccinating the world, saving lives by tackling an oxygen shortage and making medicines more available, and preparing for another pandemic in the future, another administration official said.

Targets include getting 70% of countries’ populations vaccinated by this time next year.

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