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US doubles Covid-19 vaccine donation with 500 million more jabs

At a Covid summit held by the US on 22 September, President Joe Biden committed to sharing more of its jabs as vaccine inequality continues to burden low-income countries. (Credit: Keystone/AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The US will buy a further 500 million Covid-19 jabs to donate to developing countries and is launching a new EU-US partnership to improve global vaccination. President Joe Biden made the announcement at a Covid-19 summit the US is hosting on Wednesday alongside the UN General Assembly.

The news comes as the US continues to resist the WHO’s calls for a moratorium on booster shots. The health agency called last month on all countries contemplating booster shots to first ensure that 10 per cent of the population of every country is vaccinated before proceeding.

Biden has said the US can do both. The country will buy the jabs from Pfizer and donate them to 100 countries with lagging vaccination rates. The 500 million will be in addition to the 600 million the US has already promised.

The US’s purchase of 500 million Pfizer vaccines this summer was the biggest donation purchase by a single country to date, the White House press office said on Tuesday. In terms of deliveries, the US has surpassed donations from all countries put together, the office said.

The EU promised 200 million new jabs at the State of the European Union speech last Wednesday, bringing the EU’s commitment to 450 million doses. China has promised 100 million doses by the end of the year.

The US has dispatched close to 160 million jabs to 100 countries as of Tuesday. The country’s total commitment now comes to 1.1 billion doses. Delivery of the new batch of made-in-America Pfizer vaccines will commence in January.

“For every one shot we've administered to date in America, we have now committed three shots to the rest of the world,” Biden said.

The US is donating a further $370 million earmarked for global vaccine delivery and administration, Biden announced. Over $380 million will also go to the WHO-backed vaccine programme known as COVAX to ramp up jab distribution.

He also announced that the US and the EU are launching a new partnership to support the global vaccination campaign, and urged all countries to “step up”.

The new US-EU partnership will involve a “new global health financial intermediary fund,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said at the summit.

“We should unite around the world on a few principles. That we commit to donating not selling – donating not selling – doses to low- and lower-income countries, and that the donations come with no political strings attached,” said Biden. “And that we support Covax as the main distributor for sharing WHO approved vaccines; and that we fight vaccine misinformation and exercise transparency to build vital public trust in these life saving tools.”

Biden proposed holding another Covid-19 summit early next year to take stock of progress and harmonise efforts.

“We can do this. This is within our capacity. We know what needs to be done. We just have to make the choice to do it,” he said.