Amid intensifying calls for wealthy nations to share their COVID vaccine surplus with the rest of the world, the U.S. is poised to step up big time.
President Joe Biden will announce the U.S. has purchased 500 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to donate to 92 low-income countries and the African Union, a person familiar with the plan told USA TODAY.
Biden is set to announce the donation Thursday in remarks at the Group of Seven summit in Britain. The doses will be distributed through the global vaccine alliance known as COVAX, with 200 million to be shared this year and the remaining 300 million to be donated through the first half of 2022, according to the person, who confirmed the report on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. has been under mounting pressure to step up efforts to share vaccines as need across the country begins to wane and more Americans are vaccinated. The administration had previously said it would give away 80 million vaccine doses by the end of this month, but this new commitment represents a six-fold increase.
The first allotment of those 80 million doses – a 25 million tranche – will go mostly to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia and Africa.
Vaccine inequality has become an increasingly pressing concern, and the World Health Organization has warned of a "two-track pandemic'' as wealthy nations inoculate large portions of their populations and developing countries are left exposed to the coronavirus' ravages.
In a June 3 report, Oxfam International said that of the 1.77 billion doses administered worldwide to that point, 28% had gone to people in G7 nations and only 0.3% to low-income countries. Such disparity could prolong the pandemic and allow for dangerous variants to emerge as the virus continues to spread.