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White House announces major boost to global vaccine supply

White House announces major boost to global vaccine supply
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The White House announced Thursday that the Biden administration will purchase 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines and donate them to poorer countries over the next year, a major step in the global fight against the pandemic.

President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE will announce the plans on Thursday as he prepares to attend a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in the United Kingdom as part of his first trip abroad as president. The G-7 leaders, which also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, are expected to make commitments to boost the global supply of vaccines.

The Biden administration plans to distribute the 500 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine through COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed vaccine initiative, to 92 low- and middle-income countries and the African Union beginning in August 2021. According to the White House, 200 million doses will be delivered by the end of 2021 and the remaining 300 million by June 2022.

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“This is the largest-ever purchase and donation of vaccines by a single country and a commitment by the American people to help protect people around the world from COVID-19,” reads a White House fact sheet laying out the announcement. “President Biden will also call on the world’s democracies to do their parts in contributing to the global supply of safe and effective vaccines.”

Pfizer and BioNTech said that the doses will be provided to the Biden administration at a not-for-profit price. The companies also said that the 500 million doses are part of a previous commitment to send 2 billion doses of the vaccine to low- and middle-income countries. 

Biden has been under pressure to do more to vaccinate the global population to bring an end to the pandemic, which has killed more than 3.7 million people. Currently, about 64 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. Biden has set a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of all American adults with at least one dose by July 4, but he appears increasingly unlikely to meet that target as vaccination rates slow in the U.S.

Health experts stress that ending the pandemic requires ending it globally, which could take years. Vaccinating the global population has taken on more urgency as more dangerous variants have circulated.

The White House already announced last week that it would share 80 million doses of vaccine with other countries by the end of June, primarily through COVAX. Biden has also committed $4 billion in funding to COVAX to help with vaccinating poorer countries.

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The World Health Organization estimates that it will take 11 billion vaccine doses to vaccinate 70 percent of the global population. While Biden’s commitment falls far short of that, it could help put pressure on other nations to make similar commitments.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that he wants G-7 leaders to commit to vaccinating the global population by the end of 2022.

"This is the moment for the world’s greatest and most technologically advanced democracies to shoulder their responsibilities and to vaccinate the world, because no one can be properly protected until everyone has been protected," Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.

Biden’s plans to purchase 500 million new doses from Pfizer were first reported by The Washington Post and other outlets on Wednesday.