The United States has pledged to buy and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine against coronavirus, at a time when poor countries are struggling to immunize their citizens. US President Joe Biden, who is in the UK for the G7 summit, said it was the “biggest vaccine donation” made by a single country.
“As the US economy recovers, it is in our best interest for the global economy to begin to recover. This will not happen unless we bring the pandemic under control all over the world“, Said Biden. Speaking alongside him, the head of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said that he could see “light at the end of the tunnel”.
The figure of 500 million sounds like a lot, but what difference will it make? Biden said that vaccines “will start shipping in August ”to nearly 100 low- and middle-income countries”. A contingent of 200 million doses – enough to fully vaccinate 100 million people – will be distributed this year. The next contingent of 300 million doses will be distributed in the first half of 2022.
Vaccines will be distributed to countries through the World Health Organization’s Covax program and a program run by the African Union. Covax distributes vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. Earlier, the United States pledged to distribute 80 million doses to countries around the world.
Several other G7 countries have also started donating doses. In addition to the US, this group also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK. At a summit in early June, organized by the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (Gavi), it was announced that so far, various countries have distributed more than 132 million doses.
The degree of challenge is great and vaccines are needed immediately. “Pto vaccinate at least 10% of the population in each country by September, we need an additional 250 million doses“, Said the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He said 100 million of those doses are needed in June and July. “Vaccine delivery is now essential to end the acute phase of the pandemic“, He said. Covax’s initial goal was to distribute two billion doses of vaccine worldwide by the end of this year, but the target is now for 1.8 billion doses in 92 developing economies by early 2022.
“We desperately need a U.S. foreign policy and American leadership in this challengeSaid Professor Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine in the United States, in a Twitter post. The pledges are still far from the 11 billion doses the WHO estimates are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population.
Reaching this threshold implies the so-called herd immunity. “Bota needs new factories to produce billions more doses within a yearWrote Peter Maybarduk, director of the Global Access to Medicines Program, on Twitter.
Niko Lusiani, from the charity Oxfam America, said that US doses are welcome, but they are “one point in the bucket compared to the need”. According to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks pandemic data, more than 2.2 billion vaccines have been delivered worldwide so far.