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Pfizer, BioNTech pledge 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to lower-income countries

Pfizer, BioNTech pledge 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to lower-income countries

American vaccine maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech pledged Friday to provide 1 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to low-and-moderate income countries by the end of 2021.

During an international summit organized by the G-20 Presidency and the European Commission, Pfizer said it would deliver the doses to low-income countries at no profit, and to middle-income countries at lower prices.

The companies pledged another 1 billion doses in 2022.

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Johnson & Johnson also announced it had signed a deal to provide 200 million doses of its vaccine to Covax.

Many of the European deliveries will take place through the United Nations-backed Covax program, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

But it was unclear how many of those doses will be distributed through Covax, and how many are new pledges.

Covax, backed by the U.N. and the World Health Organization, aims to equitably distribute 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines across the world. 

The initiative has been struggling, delivering only 68 million doses to date amid insufficient funding and limited supply. It was dealt another major blow this week when its biggest supplier, the Serum Institute of India, announced it would likely not export any more vaccines until the end of the year due to India's spiraling COVID-19 crisis.

The summit comes at a time of great pandemic disparities, as wealthy countries have secured the majority of COVID-19 vaccines and are rolling out well-funded national vaccination campaigns. 

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At the same time, many developing countries are being ravaged by the virus amid an insufficient vaccine supply. About 1.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world, but only 0.3 percent have gone to low-income countries, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. 

Jenny Ottenhoff, senior policy director at the Washington-based ONE Campaign, which advocates for the end of preventable disease and extreme poverty, said in a statement that the commitments made during the conference are a "good start" that show the world "is waking up to the scale of this truly global crisis."

But Ottenhoff added that "18 months into this global pandemic a good start is not good enough. We have the tools to end the pandemic in months rather than years – but there is still a massive gap between commitments made and what is really needed to get these tools everywhere."