President Joe Biden has urged global leaders to join him in sharing coronavirus vaccines with struggling nations around the world after he promised the US would donate 500 million doses.
Speaking in Cornwall before a summit of the Group of Seven world leaders, Mr Biden announced the US commitment to vaccine sharing, which comes on top of 80 million doses he has already pledged by the end of the month.
He argued it was in both America’s interests and the world’s to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere.
“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Mr Biden said.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the US commitment and said Europe should do the same.
“I think the European Union needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States” and be able to make a similar announcement, he said at a news conference.
Mr Biden said the US was sharing its doses “with no strings attached” or “pressure for favours”.
“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, and that’s it,” he said.
Mr Biden had faced mounting pressure to outline his global vaccine sharing plan, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced and the demand for shots in the US has dropped in recent weeks.
“In times of trouble, Americans reach out to offer help,” Mr Biden said, adding that the US doses would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign. “Our values call on us to do everything that we can to vaccinate the world against Covid-19.″
The US commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global Covax alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most. A price tag for the 500 million doses was not released, but the US is now set to be Covax’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its single largest funder with a 4 billion dollar commitment.
The global alliance has so far distributed just 81 million doses and parts of the world, particularly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts. White House officials hope the ramped-up distribution programme can be the latest example of a theme Mr Biden plans to hit frequently during his week in Europe: that Western democracies, and not rising authoritarian states, can deliver the most good for the world.
White House officials said the 500 million vaccines will start being shipped in August, with the goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022.
After leading the world in new cases and deaths over much of the last year, the rapid vaccination programme in the US now positions it among the leaders of the global recovery. Nearly 64% of adults in the US have received at least one vaccine dose and the average numbers of new positive cases and deaths in the US are lower now than at any point since the earliest days of the pandemic.