ST. IVES, England — One year ago, the U.S. was the deadliest hotspot of the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing the cancellation of the Group of Seven summit. Now, the U.S. is a model for how to successfully emerge from the pandemic.
In a speech on the eve of this year's G-7 summit in England, President Joe Biden on Thursday discussed plans for the U.S. to donate 500 million vaccine doses around the globe. The U.S. had faced mounting pressure to outline its plan to share vaccines with the rest of the world, especially as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.
Biden said the U.S. is buying and donating hundreds of millions of doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to help save lives, not to get favors or potential concessions from the nearly 100 low-income countries that will be receiving the shots.
He also called on other countries to follow the American lead, saying “it is in all of our interests to see the global economy recover.” Biden added that the Group of Seven nations would join the U.S. on Friday in announcing global vaccine donations in an aim to end pandemic.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later confirmed that the Group of Seven would commit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with the world. He said half of those doses will come from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K.
Biden had outlined the U.S. global vaccine-sharing plans in England after a meeting with Johnson. Biden, Johnson and other leaders of the world’s largest economies are participating in a summit that begins Friday in Cornwall, England.
Under the Biden administration's plan, the U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to share through the global COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower income countries and the African Union over the next year.
Two hundred million doses — enough to fully protect 100 million people — would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022.
“We have to end Covid-19 not just at home — which we’re doing — but everywhere,” Biden said.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters ahead of the speech that Biden was committed to sharing vaccines because it was in the public health and strategic interests of the U.S.
With Biden on his first foreign trip, he is aiming to show “that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere,” Sullivan said.
Global public health groups had been aiming to use the upcoming G-7 meetings in Cornwall to press the nation’s wealthiest democracies to do more to share vaccines with the world, and Biden’s plans drew immediate praise toward that end.
“The Biden administration’s decision to purchase and donate additional Covid-19 vaccine doses is the kind of bold leadership that is needed to end this global pandemic,” said Tom Hart, acting CEO at The ONE Campaign, a nonprofit that seeks to end poverty. “This action sends an incredibly powerful message about America’s commitment to helping the world fight this pandemic and the immense power of US global leadership.”
But others have called on the U.S. to do even more.
“Charity is not going to win the war against the coronavirus,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead. “It’s time to let the world help itself. Rather than more lucrative transactions with very profitable pharmaceutical corporations, we need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints.”
Biden last month broke with European allies to endorse waiving intellectual property rules at the World Trade Organization to promote vaccine production and equity. But many in his own administration acknowledge that the restrictions were not the driving cause of the global vaccine shortage, which has more to do with limited manufacturing capacity and shortages of delicate raw materials.
Sullivan said that he does not expect the U.S. push to waive the patents on vaccines to cause tension with European counterparts.
“We’re all converging around the idea that we need to boost vaccine supply in a number of ways, sharing more of our own doses,” Sullivan told reporters. “We’ll have more to say on that, helping get more manufacturing capacity around the world.”
Globally, there have been more than 3.7 million confirmed deaths from Covid-19, and more than 174 million people have been confirmed infected.