President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his plan to buy an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to distribute to lower-income countries, increasing the U.S. commitment to fighting the pandemic across the globe, a key goal of the G-7 summit.
"That's a historic step. The largest single purchase and donation COVID-19 vaccines by any single country ever. Importantly, this is the mRNA vaccine, which is proven to be extremely effective against COVID-19 and every known variant of that virus thus far," Biden said, touting the announcement in the Cornwall village of St. Ives, the United Kingdom seaside resort village where world leaders are gathering.
"These half a billion vaccines will start to be shipped in August, as quickly as they roll off the manufacturing line. 200 million of these doses will be delivered this year, 2021. And 300 million more will be delivered in the first half of 2022," Biden added.
On a call with reporters previewing Biden’s announcement Thursday, a senior administration official clarified that the 500 million doses are in addition to the 80 million doses the U.S. has already announced it would share around the world by the end of 2021 -- for a total of 580 million.
The president has sought to highlight the importance of democracies during his first foreign trip as president, and reestablish the United States as a leader on the world stage under his administration. In his remarks, Biden touted the investment in the global vaccination effort as an American duty.
"This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation to save as many lives as we can, and our responsibility to our values. We value the inherent dignity of all people. In times of trouble, Americans reach out to offer help and to offer a helping hand. That's who we are," he said.
Biden also stressed getting vaccines distributed around the world was also in American’s best interest to keep variants in check, and improve the global economy following the impacts of the pandemic.
Biden had previously criticized other countries, like Russia and China, for seeking to curry favor with their vaccine programs, and argued the new surge of doses from the U.S. were being offered with “no strings attached.”
"Let me be clear, just as with the 80 million doses we previously announced, the United States is providing these half-million doses with no strings attached. Let me say it again, with no strings attached. Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, that's it. Period," he said.
While the commitment is a sharp increase in the U.S. commitment to distribute vaccines around the globe, it is still far short of the 11 billion vaccines the World Health organization estimates is needed to vaccinate the world.
The official said while the full cost is not firmly known, doses would be paid for in part by funding previously set aside for the Covax effort, and funding from Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year.
"The U.S. plans to work with COVAX to utilize the second $2 billion in funding of the $4 billion that we committed to the fight against the pandemic," the official said, adding the additional $1.5 billion for the plan would be paid for by already appropriated funds from the American Rescue Plan.
"The United States, through the American Rescue Plan, has allocated a significant amount of money for every step along the chain of vaccination and building the resilience of public health systems, and this monumental commitment to five of half a billion Pfizer doses will fit into that chain," the administration official said.
Biden previewed that this announcement comes ahead of further commitment from G7 leaders, but stressed that the doses were just a start to get the virus under control globally, and would still need to get distributed into arms around the world.
"That's why the United States is already providing hundreds of millions in funding to support last-minute vaccination efforts, including new funding from Congress as part of the American Rescue Plan and working with programs in Latin America, Asia, and Africa," he said. "We're going to keep manufacturing doses, donating doses, getting jabs, as they say here in the U.K., in arms until the world has beaten this virus."