Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Biden to double US global donation of COVID-19 vaccine shots

Published:Wednesday | September 22, 2021 | 9:38 AM
President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, September 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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 one billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.

The stepped-up US commitment is to be the cornerstone of the global vaccination summit Biden is convening virtually Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN 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 organisations 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 US purchase, according to two senior Biden administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden's remarks, will bring the total US vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022.

At least 160 million shots supplied by the US have been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined.

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 UN 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 Iván 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.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.