The United States has committed to buy and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries, including those in the African Union.
This comes as the World Health Organisation last week on Thursday sounded the alarm on low vaccination numbers in the continent, saying that only seven African countries are likely to meet its goal to vaccinate 10 percent of its population against the coronavirus by September.
Speaking at the sideline of the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, US President Joe Biden said that America’s donation to poor nations would “supercharge the battle against the virus and comes with no strings attached.”
"The United States is providing these half billion doses with no strings attached. Our vaccine donations do not include pressure for favours, or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives,” he said. “We have made it clear that vaccinating the rest of the world is the only way to end the pandemic for good. We need to attack this virus globally as well.”
This comes barely a month after Washington committed to provide at least 80 million Covid-19 vaccines to Covax (the global Covid vaccine equity scheme) facility before the end of this month.
Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said America would donate 80 million US vaccines, including the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines previously announced, and at least an additional 20 million doses of US authorised vaccines by the end of June.
“The United States will work with Covax and other partners to ensure that these vaccines are delivered in a way that is equitable and follows the science and public health data. The US will not use its vaccines to secure favours from other countries,” Ms Psaki said
The Biden administration further said that over the coming weeks, it will use its leadership working with the G7 partners, the EU, Covax and others to co-ordinate a multilateral effort focused on ending the pandemic.
“Specifically, we seek to garner concrete, deliverable commitments from other governments and private sector partners to make available more vaccines, spur production and manufacturing of vaccines and raw materials, get shots into arms around the world, and provide health security assistance to save lives, stop the spread of Covid-19, reduce the lifespan of this pandemic, and recover economically,” Ms Psaki said.
The news from Washington comes as a relief for most African countries, that were depending on the Covax facility to administer their second shots of the vaccines, but which now remain unavailable, after India blocked exports.
The US now joins France and Sweden in donating shots to Covax after vaccinating majority of their priority populations.
Last month, Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore, whose agency distributes vaccines for Covax, urged EU states and G7 nations to share their doses.
“G7 nations and ‘Team Europe’ group of European Union member states could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared just 20 percent of their available supply over June, July and August. Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now,” said Ms Fore.
Going by Unicef estimates, Covax finds itself 190 million doses short of its planned target. The facility has so far delivered over 60 million dose.
Africa trails the world in Covid-19 vaccinations with WHO estimating that only two per cent of the continent’s population has received the jab.