President BidenJoe BidenWhite House announces major boost to global vaccine supply U.S. in talks to buy Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to send abroad: report Pentagon to consider authorizing airstrikes in Afghanistan if country falls into crisis: report MORE on Thursday touted a U.S. donation of 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as a step to “supercharge” the global fight against the virus.
Biden, speaking in the United Kingdom at a meeting of G7 global leaders, made the formal announcement of the dose donation while standing next to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
“We’re taking a major step that will supercharge the global fight against this pandemic,” Biden said, saying the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines” just as it was the “arsenal of democracy” during World War II.
“Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions,” Biden said. “We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic. That’s it. Period.”
The first vaccines will begin shipping in August and 200 million will be available this year, the White House said, with the remaining 300 million in the first half of next year. The doses will go to 92 lower-income countries.
Biden thanked Bourla, who he said has “really stepped up.”
The move comes as Biden has been under pressure to do more to vaccinate the world, now that the vaccine supply is plentiful in the United States, but the virus is still raging in many other countries amid a shortage of vaccines.
The progressive group Public Citizen praised the announcement but said more needs to be done to boost global manufacturing of vaccines, not just donating doses made with the current capacity.
“The world needs urgent new manufacturing to produce billions more doses within a year, not just commitments to buy the planned inadequate supply,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program.
Biden said additional announcements will be made on Friday from the broader Group of Seven, showing the “full scope of our commitment.”
Vaccinating people in other countries is also key for cutting down on the development of new variants of the virus that could potentially evade the protection of vaccines, experts say, though the vaccines have held up well against variants so far.
Bourla touted that no variant has yet evaded the Pfizer vaccines protection, but said that in case one does, the company has a process to quickly develop an updated vaccine.
“We have built a process to develop within 100 days a new vaccine if needed, God forbid,” Bourla said.