Biden Doubling Vaccine Purchase 09/22 06:08
President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is doubling
its purchase of Pfizer's COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion
doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population
within the next year.
(AP) -- President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is
doubling its purchase of Pfizer's COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1
billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global
population within the next year.
The stepped-up U.S. commitment is to be the cornerstone of the global
vaccination summit Biden is convening virtually Wednesday on the sidelines of
the U.N. General Assembly, where he plans to push well-off nations to do more
to get the coronavirus under control.
World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are growing
increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity
of access to shots between residents of wealthier and poorer nations.
The U.S. purchase, according to two senior Biden administration officials
who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden's remarks, will bring
the total U.S. vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses through
2022. At least 160 million shots supplied by the U.S. have been distributed to
more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world
The latest purchase reflects only a fraction of what will be necessary to
meet a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population -- and 70% of the
citizens of each nation -- by next September's U.N. meeting. It's a target
pushed by global aid groups that Biden will throw his weight behind.
The White House said Biden will use the summit to press other countries to
"commit to a higher level of ambition" in their vaccine sharing plans,
including specific challenges for them to meet. The officials said the White
House will publicly release the targets for well-off nations and nonprofits
after the summit concludes.
The American response has come under criticism for being too modest,
particularly as the administration advocates for providing booster shots to
tens of millions of Americans before vulnerable people in poorer nations have
received even a first dose.
"We have observed failures of multilateralism to respond in an equitable,
coordinated way to the most acute moments. The existing gaps between nations
with regard to the vaccination process are unheard of," Colombian President
Ivn Duque said Tuesday at the United Nations.
More than 5.9 billion COVID-19 doses have been administered globally over
the past year, representing about 43% of the global population. But there are
vast disparities in distribution, with many lower-income nations struggling to
vaccinate even the most vulnerable share of their populations, and some yet to
exceed 2% to 3% vaccination rates.
In remarks at the U.N., Biden took credit on Tuesday for sharing more than
160 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries, including 130 million
surplus doses and the first installments of more than 500 million shots the
U.S. is purchasing for the rest of the world.
Other leaders made clear in advance it was not enough.
Chilean President Sebastian Piera said the "triumph" of speedy vaccine
development was offset by political "failure" that produced inequitable
distribution. "In science, cooperation prevailed; in politics, individualism.
In science, shared information reigned; in politics, reserve. In science,
teamwork predominated; in politics, isolated effort," Piera said.
The World Health Organization says only 15% of promised donations of
vaccines -- from rich countries that have access to large quantities of them --
have been delivered. The U.N. health agency has said it wants countries to
fulfill their dose-sharing pledges "immediately" and make shots available for
programs that benefit poor countries and Africa in particular.
COVAX, the U.N.-backed program to ship vaccines to all countries has
struggled with production issues, supply shortages and a near-cornering of the
market for vaccines by wealthy nations.
The WHO has urged companies that produce vaccines to prioritize COVAX and
make public their supply schedules. It also has appealed to wealthy countries
to avoid broad rollouts of booster shots so doses can be made available to
health care workers and vulnerable people in the developing world. Such calls
have largely gone ignored.
COVAX has missed nearly all of its vaccine-sharing targets. Its managers
also have lowered their ambitions to ship vaccines by the end of this year,
from an original target of some 2 billion doses worldwide to hopes for 1.4
billion now. Even that mark could be missed.
As of Tuesday, COVAX had shipped more than 296 million doses to 141
The 70% global target is ambitious, not least because of the U.S. experience.
Biden had set a goal of vaccinating 70% of the U.S. adult population by July
4, but persistent vaccine hesitance contributed to the nation not meeting that
target until a month later. Nearly 64% of the entire U.S. population has
received at least one dose and less than 55% is fully vaccinated, according to
data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. officials hope to increase those figures in the coming months, both
through encouraging the use of vaccination mandates and by vaccinating children
once regulators clear the shots for the under-12 population.
Aid groups have warned that the persistent inequities risk extending the
global pandemic, and that could lead to new and more dangerous variants. The
delta variant raging across the U.S. has proved to be more transmissible than
the original strain, though the existing vaccines have been effective at
preventing nearly all serious illness and death.