PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Biden administration is planning on donating 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries within the next year.
President Joe Biden, who is in the United Kingdom for the G7 Summit, will be speaking about the effort following a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.
Early Thursday morning, the White House announced that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses from Pfizer and donate them to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union. All of the doses would be produced at Pfizer facilities in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Massachusetts. Shipping will begin in August.
The Biden administration is pledging to send out 200 million doses by the end of this year and the rest by the middle of 2022. The distribution would be handled through COVAX, the United Nations-backed vaccine program.
The announcement comes days after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “two-track pandemic.”
“Many countries still face an extremely dangerous situation while some of those with the highest vaccination rates are starting to talk about ending restrictions,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, which is pushing G7 leaders to commit to sharing doses as soon as possible to stay ahead of variants and address the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
The agency said 44% of doses have been administered in richer countries compared to 0.4% in poorer nations.
The U.S. already promised to donate 80 million doses from its current supply by the end of June, along with $2 billion to COVAX. The WHO is calling for at least 10% of the global population to be vaccinated by September and 30% by December.
Time is of the essence, health experts say, because of the spread of coronavirus variants.
“When we see the Delta variant — which is the variant that originated in India — rising in prominence in various countries, those [countries] need vaccines deployed right away because of the infectious nature and fast-spreading nature of that particular variant,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus. “The more virus there is, the more chance the virus will have a chance to enable it to be a variant that outwits our current vaccination strategies.”