United States President Joe Biden has announced an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to low and lower-middle-income countries.
He was speaking at the start of his much-anticipated virtual Global COVID-19 Summit on ending the pandemic and building back better to prepare for the next one.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who also participated, lauded the US initiative as an important milestone in response by the global community to the COVID-19 pandemic but cautioned that the gulf was widening between better-resourced nations whom he again accused of hoarding vaccines.
Biden’s announcement doubles a pledge he made in June of 500 million doses of the leading mRNA vaccine as he seeks to rally rich countries and manufacturing companies and to do more to get 70% of the global population vaccinated by September next year.
“I’m announcing another historic commitment; the United States is buying another half-billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low and lower-middle countries around the world. This is another half-billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year and it brings our total commitment of donated vaccines to 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated. Put another way, for every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” said Biden.
Biden also pointed to the goal of dramatically boosting global and regional vaccine manufacturing capacity while touting a greater need for transparency so that vaccine production and distribution can be more predictable and coordinated.
“Our quad partnership with India, Japan and Australia is on track to help produce at least one billion vaccine doses in India to boost the global supply by the end of 2022. And we’re providing financing and helping strengthen manufacturing in South Africa and (to) produce more than 500 million doses of J&J in Africa for Africa next year. Next, we also know from experience that getting those vaccines into people’s arms may be the hardest logistical challenge we faced. That’s why we need to significantly step up our investment in helping countries get shots in arms, ” adds the US President.
As part of his build-back better strategy, he promoted the establishment of a financial mechanism for global health security that would be charged with preparing for the next pandemic.
Outcome of day 2 of the UN General Assembly: Sherwin Bryce-Pease:
President Ramaphosa for his part warned that gaps between rich and poor were widening.
“The Gulf is widening between better-resourced nations who are buying up and even hoarding vaccines and developing countries who are struggling to have access to vaccines. The pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies and how that gap can severely undermine global health security of around 66 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide. Only two percent of these have been administered in Africa. A continent of more than 1.2 billion people. This must be unjust. And it also is immoral.”
He again raised the initiative spearheaded by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation for waivers that would temporarily suspend intellectual property rights protections for technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat COVID-19.
“We’d like to thank you, President Biden, for being among those number of countries who are supporting this proposal. With a view to ensuring that African countries would have better access to vaccines. All African Union member states signed an agreement through the Africa Vaccines Acquisition Task Team, which I helped to set up when I was chair of the African Union, so that we can gain access to 220 million rising to 440 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” Ramaphosa said.
The South African President also expressed his country’s support for a global health financial intermediary fund for pandemic preparedness as well as a global health threat council.