CORNWALL, UK – Ahead of the G-7 summit in Britain, US President Joe Biden has officially announced that his administration will donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 92 low and middle-income countries.
“These half a billion vaccines will start shipping in August, as soon as they roll off the production line,” Biden said Thursday in Cornwall, adding that 200 million doses would be delivered by the end of this year and 300 million in the first half of 2022.
Biden said the donation, which was first announced on Wednesday, will be made without conditions.
Today, President Biden announces that the United States will purchase half a billion new doses of Pfizer vaccine and donate it to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries around the world. This historic step will save millions of lives.
– The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 10, 2021
“Our vaccine donations do not include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We are doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, ”Biden said.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, joined the American leader for the announcement.
“We are testing the response of our vaccine to the new variants,” said Bourla, noting that so far no variant has escaped the protection provided by the vaccine.
These Pfizer vaccines will be produced using the power of American manufacturing – in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and we plan to start shipping doses in August.
– The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 10, 2021
With this pledge, the United States also aims to break free from the uncomfortable reputation of being a vaccine collector.
The move was a signal that the United States “is not so intensely parochial and introverted,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the United States and the Americas program at Chatham House, an independent political institute in London. This has been of deep concern globally, Vinjamuri said, not only during the Trump years, but also throughout the early months of the Biden administration, when Washington did not share doses despite massive oversupply.
The announcement by the US president came a day before the start of the G-7 summit, a gathering of the world’s most advanced democracies, in Cornwall.
“Tomorrow, the G-7 countries will announce the full scope of our engagement,” Biden said.
Doses, delivered by the United States via COVAX, the UN’s vaccine sharing mechanism, is in addition to the 80 million already committed by the United States to deliver by the end of June. In addition, the United States gave COVAX $ 2 billion.
The United States initially pledged an additional $ 2 billion for COVAX, but is now redirecting the money to help pay for the 500 million donated doses, which are estimated to cost $ 3.5 billion.
Humanitarian organizations applauded this decision. Tom Hart, interim CEO of the ONE Campaign, an organization that works to end poverty and preventable disease, urged other G-7 countries to follow.
“This action sends an incredibly powerful message about America’s commitment to helping the world fight this pandemic and the immense power of America’s global leadership,” Hart said in a statement.
Will other G-7 countries follow suit?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday also pledged “millions” of doses for the world’s poorest.
“At Carbis Bay, the G-7 will pledge to distribute vaccines to inoculate the world by the end of next year, with millions coming from excess British stocks,” Johnson said. in a report.
But we don’t know how much the G-7 countries can help. Countries are at different stages of immunizing their own populations. Japan and Canada, which have immunization rates below 10%, are unable to be so generous.
Besides vaccine donation, the G-7 is also under pressure to give up vaccine patents. The United States has supported the waiver of intellectual property rights in vaccines, the so-called TRIPS waiver, to the World Trade Organization. But the European Union is pushing for a different proposal: compulsory licensing to increase vaccine production.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told VOA the different approaches would not be a point of contention at the G-7.
“I anticipate convergence because we are all converging around the idea that we need to increase vaccine supply in several ways,” Sullivan said.
The Biden administration knows that Europe will likely be very keen on not supporting the waiver, Vinjamuri of Chatham House said, adding that getting all WTO members to agree on a waiver is a process. long and difficult, and it is simply easier to donate vaccines than to allow countries to produce them without fear of prosecution.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA the United States will continue negotiations at the WTO, but will not provide details on whether Biden will put his diplomatic weight behind him at the G-7.
Ahead of his vaccine announcement, Biden met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, with whom he has had disagreements in the past. Biden once called Johnson a clone of Donald Trump.
The leaders agreed on a new Atlantic Charter, modeled on the declaration made by then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and then American President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 to promote democracy and free trade.
The Atlantic Charter of 2021 underscores that with similar values and combined strength, the two countries will work together to address the enormous challenges facing the planet – from COVID and climate change to maintaining global security.
Biden, who is of Irish descent, also fears Brexit will undermine the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 US-facilitated agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom
As part of the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland remains a party to the EU’s single market, but is no longer part of the union, which means that a customs border must be put in place. The Biden administration wants to make sure that nothing in Brexit could jeopardize the prospects for peace.
Biden’s support for the Good Friday deal is “rock solid,” Sullivan told VOA.
“This agreement must be protected, and any measures that endanger or undermine it will not be welcomed by the United States,” Sullivan said. He didn’t want to say if Johnson undermines the deal.
Despite these tensions, Biden is very determined to anchor the G-7 in the US-UK partnership, Vinjamuri said. “To truly use America’s deep and historic relationship with Britain to affirm the values of democracy, liberalism, freedom.”
The Johnson government has just concluded an integrated review of its foreign policy strategy, which included a reaffirmation of the special relationship between the two allies.