President Joe Biden announced on Monday that the United States will share at least 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines with other countries over the next six weeks.
The pledged doses will be in addition to 60 million stockpiled doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine the administration has previously said it will donate after they’re cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.
The announcement comes amid mounting pressure for the US and other rich nations to share doses with low- and middle-income countries, some of which are struggling with COVID-19 surges amid a dearth of doses. It also comes as the US has a glut of vaccine doses and is now struggling to convince a vaccine-hesitant portion of the population to take the available shots.
“We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that’s raging globally is under control,” Biden said in a news conference at the White House Monday. “No ocean’s wide enough, no wall is high enough, to keep us safe.”
Sharing our vaccines is “the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do; it’s the strong thing to do,” Biden said.
Just hours earlier, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for countries and manufacturers to share more doses, noting the urgent need.
“There is a huge disconnect growing, where in some countries with the highest vaccination rates, there appears to be a mindset that the pandemic is over, while others are experiencing huge waves of infection,” Dr. Tedros said.
“We need high-income countries that have contracted much of the immediate global supply of vaccines to share them now,” he added.
Dr. Tedros highlighted a statement from UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on Monday noting a huge shortfall in globally donated doses. Fore wrote that the COVAX Facility—an international effort to deliver vaccine doses equitably—will deliver 65 million doses in the coming days, but it should be delivering 170 million. By next month, the shortfall is projected to near 190 million doses.
“Cases are exploding and health systems are struggling in countries near—like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives—and far, like Argentina and Brazil,” Fore wrote. “The cost for children and families will be incalculable,” and the threat of more dangerous variants looms. “The clearest pathway out of this pandemic is a global, equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.”
In a press briefing last week, Dr. Tedros noted that low- and lower-middle income countries account for 47 percent of the world’s population but have received just 17 percent of the world’s vaccines supply.