US doubles COVID vaccine purchases for global sharing

President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will double its purchases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries, bringing its pledged donations to a total of 1.1 billion doses.

Speaking at a virtual international summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday, Biden described the ramping up of US vaccine donations as a “historic commitment”.

“The United States is buying another half a billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low- and middle-income countries around the world,” he said.

The new doses will all be shipped by this time next year, he added.

Biden stressed the need for global cooperation to defeat COVID-19 and improve preparedness for future pandemics. He called on wealthier nations to donate, not sell, vaccine doses to lower-income countries, saying that the US is making the donations “with no political strings attached”.

“We’re not going to solve this crisis with half measures or middle-of-the-road ambitions,” Biden said. “We need to go big. And we need to do our part – governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, philanthropists.”

He also announced a partnership with the European Union to “work more closely” with the bloc on expanding global vaccination. Japan also announced it would double its COVID-19 vaccine donations to about 60 million doses, while Italy said it planned give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in a speech to the UN on Tuesday, repeated that China aimed to provide two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world by the end of the year.

Addressing the UNGA on Tuesday, Biden called for a “collective act of science and political will” to combat the pandemic.

“We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, test, treatments to save lives around the world,” he said, adding the US had already shipped more than 160 million vaccine doses to 100 countries.