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President Biden doubles US purchase of vaccine and calls for a global push

President Joe Biden speaking at the White House. Picture by Andrew Harnik, Associated Press
Zeke Miller Associated Press

President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to share with the world to 1 billion doses.

The increased commitment is to be the cornerstone of a vaccination summit Mr Biden is convening virtually on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he plans to push well-off nations to do more to get coronavirus under control.

World leaders, aid groups and global health organisations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to vaccines between residents of wealthier and poorer nations.

The purchase, according to two senior Biden administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, will bring the total US vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses in 2022.

At least 160 million jabs supplied by the US have been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined.

The latest purchase reflects only a fraction of what will be needed to meet a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population — and 70% of the citizens of each nation — by next September’s UN meeting.

The White House said Mr Biden will use the summit to press other countries to “commit to a higher level of ambition” in their vaccine sharing plans.

The American response has come under criticism for being too modest, particularly as the administration advocates for providing boosters to tens of millions of Americans before vulnerable people in poorer nations have received even a first dose.

“We have observed failures of multilateralism to respond in an equitable, coordinated way to the most acute moments. The existing gaps between nations with regard to the vaccination process are unheard of,” Colombian President Ivan Duque said at the United Nations.

More than 5.9 billion Covid-19 doses have been administered globally over the past year, representing about 43% of the global population. But there are vast disparities in distribution, with many lower-income nations struggling to vaccinate even the most vulnerable share of their populations, and some yet to exceed 2% to 3% vaccination rates.

Aid groups have warned that the persistent inequities risk extending the global pandemic, and that could lead to new and more dangerous variants.

The delta variant has proved to be more transmissible than the original strain, though the existing vaccines have been effective at preventing nearly all serious illness and death.

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