The United States government has donated 5.7 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to South Africa as the fight against the pandemic continues.

The donation was confirmed in a statement by the US Embassy in Pretoria, calling it a gift from the people of the United States and the largest bilateral vaccine donation to date.

The acting head of the US Mission in South Africa, Todd Haskell, said South Africans know they can count on the US as a friend and partner, to support their efforts to fight the pandemic and get its economy back on track.

US President Joe Biden earlier pledged to donate 500 million vaccine doses globally, including by sharing doses with African countries through the COVAX facility and in coordination with the Africa CDC and the African Union (AU).

The statement says the Solidarity Fund,  the public benefit organisation with a mandate to support the national health response, has supported the delivery of these vaccine doses which will begin arriving at OR Tambo International on July 31.

Washington’s pledge of 500 million doses globally, made at the G7 in June, will be distributed to nearly 100 countries over the next two years with some 200 million shots expected to be delivered by the end of 2021.