US pledges to buy hundreds of millions more vaccine doses to donate to the world

© AP

Joe Biden

– AP

The United States is planning to buy millions more doses of the Pfizer vaccine to distribute around the world, according to a report, in a move that would bolster hopes of vaccinating the world beyond the Western hemisphere.

The move, details of which were leaked on Friday and reported by The Washington Post, come ahead of a meeting of the UN General Assembly next week to address the issue of global vaccine supply.

An official announcement is expected early next week on the deal with Pfizer, which follows an existing agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to distribute 500 million doses of the vaccine through its Covax initiative, which was announced in June.

In a statement last week, the WHO said it expected to fall short of its goal of distributing 2 billion doses to low and middle-income countries by the end of the year, with deliveries 30 per cent below forecasts.

The WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had called on the United States and other wealthy nations to hold back on administering third – or so called “booster” shots – while low and middle-income countries struggle to access doses.

He went on to say last week that countries should wait until at least the end of the year, which would give all countries an opportunity to reach at least 40 per cent vaccinated. The United States, which has faced calls to delay administering booster shots, is scheduled to start doing so next week.

Meanwhile in Africa, only 3 per cent of the continent’s population have received a vaccine, and many countries have struggled to secure supplies while wealthy nations — including the US and EU states – secured billions of doses.

According to The Post, the White House will also announce on Friday that it will host a virtual summit next week on the issue of global vaccine supply, which will involve world leaders and health professionals. The report cited three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The summit, on Wednesday, is rumoured to see US president Joe Biden commit the world to vaccinating 70 per cent of its population by next September. The target will require billions of additional doses for low and middle income countries, on top of those already announced.

The US, one of the largest donors to the Covax initiative, has already bought 140 million doses for the rest of the world. Next week’s event could see other countries also pledge further donations.

The Independent has approached the White House for further comment.

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