The United States will purchase half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for lower income countries with no strings attached, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday.
“Half a billion vaccines will start to be shipped in August, as quickly as they roll off the manufacturing line,” Biden said at a news conference before the G7 summit in Britain.
The Democratic president arrived in England late Wednesday for his first overseas trip since taking office. The eight-day mission aims to rebuild trans-Atlantic ties and reframe relations with Russia after four rocky years of tariffs and withdrawal from treaties under Republican former President Donald Trump.
“The United States is providing these half billion doses, with no strings attached. No strings attached. Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors, or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives,” added Biden.
Biden vowed that America would be the arsenal of vaccines in the fight against global COVID-19. “Just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War Two.”
The pandemic has killed about 3.9 million people around the world, with the infection reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
The new donations come on top of some 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June, and $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX program led by the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the White House said.
Biden's announcement comes amid mounting pressure for the United States, which has now given at least one shot to around 64% of its adult population, to boost donations of COVID-19 shots to other countries that are desperately seeking doses.
Top officials at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank warned that huge disparities in vaccination rates could prolong the pandemic, slowing a global economic recovery, and raising the risk that more deadly - and potentially vaccine-resistant - variants will emerge. Vaccination rates are in the single digits in many poorer countries.