The U.S. Biden administration just struck a deal with Pfizer to buy 500 million doses of the covid-19 vaccine from the pharma giant, with plans to donate the doses to countries that need them, sources familiar with the pact told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Of those doses, 200 million are scheduled to be donated this year, with the remaining 300 million doled out in the first half of 2022. The doses are slated to be distributed through COVAX — a program spearheaded by the World Health Organisation and other humanitarian groups, meant to distribute vaccines to countries in need — 92 of those countries (along with the African Union) will be on the receiving end of these Pfizer doses.
This is a bit of a boost from what the administration announced previously. Last week, the White House put out plans for an international vaccine rollout, saying the administration would share “at least” 80 million vaccine doses globally by the month’s end. During the first leg of this rollout, roughly 6 million doses would be shared directly with countries like India, which have recently experienced severe coronavirus outbreaks.
Per the Post, Biden is set to announce the plan for the 500 million doses at the G7 meeting in Britain this week. Thus far, the administration’s global coronavirus response has been panned by international allies and healthcare advocates alike, who say efforts like COVAX will do little to actually level the playing field for countries struggling to vaccinate their populations right now.
Attempts from wealthy countries to close that gap thus far have been less than perfect — a recent analysis by Bloomberg found that 40% of the covid-19 vaccines delivered globally have gone to people in the 27 wealthiest nations. The least wealthy countries have administered just 1.6% of those doses.
To put things into a bit of perspective: While more than half of the U.S. is vaccinated, countries like Pakistan and Guatemala have vaccinated less than 4% of their populations, per the New York Times. Syria, a country with less than 1% of its citizens vaccinated, is in the middle of a massive viral surge of its own. If Biden wants to close the gap between the haves and have-nots, then the administration needs to step it up.