ST. IVES, England
(AP) — The Group of Seven nations are set to commit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus vaccines
with the rest of the world, British
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
announced Thursday, with half coming from the United States
and 100 million from the United Kingdom
, as President Joe Biden
urged allies to join in hastening the end of the pandemic
and strengthening the world's wealthiest democracies' strategic position.
Johnson's announcement came on the eve of the G-7 leaders' summit in England, just hours after Biden pledged to donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccine
doses and foreshadowed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination
widely and quickly available everywhere.
“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic by working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that the G-7 nations
, which include Canada
, and Japan
, would outline their vaccine donation commitments on Friday.
The prime minister's office stated that the first 5 million U.K. doses would be distributed in the coming weeks, with the remainder distributed over the next year, and that Biden's commitment was in addition to the 80 million doses he has already pledged to donate by the end of June.
“At the G7 Summit
, I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and rebuild better from coronavirus,” Johnson said in a statement, referring to the campaign slogan of the United States president.
Earlier Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron
praised the United States' commitment and urged Europe to follow suit, saying France would distribute at least 30 million doses globally by the end of the year.
“I think the European Union
needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States,” he said at a press conference, adding that time was of the essence, saying, “It’s almost more important to say how many (doses) we deliver next month than making promises to be fulfilled in 18 months.”
The G-7 leaders have been under increasing pressure to outline their global vaccine sharing plans, particularly as supply inequities have become more pronounced around the world. The United States has a large vaccine stockpile, and demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.
Biden predicted that the US doses, as well as the overall G-7 commitment, would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the US doses are free of strings.
“Our vaccine donations
do not include any pressure for favors or potential concessions,” Biden said, adding, “We are doing this to save lives and to end this pandemic, that is all.”
“Our values demand that we do everything in our power to vaccinate the world against COVID-19,” he added.
The United States has committed to purchasing and donating 500 million Pfizer
doses for distribution to 92 low-income countries and the African Union through the global COVAX
alliance, bringing the first consistent supply of mRNA vaccine to the most vulnerable countries.
According to a senior White House
official, the Pfizer agreement came together with some urgency in the last four weeks at Biden's direction, both to meet critical needs overseas and to be ready for announcement at the G-7. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, added that the Biden administration
was to apply the same wartime posture used in the vaccine rollout in 2009.
Biden stated that the 500 million U.S.-made vaccines will be shipped beginning in August, with the goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year, and the remaining 300 million doses will be shipped in the first half of 2022. A price tag for the doses was not disclosed, but the United States is now set to be COVAX's largest vaccine donor as well as its single largest funder, with a $4 billion contribution.
The well-funded global alliance has had a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, as richer nations have locked up billions of doses through direct contracts with drug manufacturers. Biden's move, officials said, was meant to ensure that a significant amount of manufacturing capacity remains open to wealthy nations.
COVAX has only been distributed in 81 million doses worldwide, and many parts of the world, particularly Africa, remain vaccine deserts.
The increased distribution program, according to White House officials, fits with a theme Biden plans to emphasize throughout his week in Europe: that Western democracies, not authoritarian states, can do the most good for the world.
According to US National Security
Adviser Jake Sullivan, G-7 leaders are "converging" on the idea that vaccine supply can be increased in a variety of ways, including countries sharing more of their own doses, assisting in the expansion of global manufacturing capacity, and doing more across the "chain of custody" from when the vaccine is manufactured to when it is injected into someone in the field.
In his remarks, Biden referred to the workers in the Detroit
area who, 80 years ago, built tanks and planes that “aided in the defeat of the threat of global fascism
in World War II
“They built what became known as the arsenal of democracy
,” Biden said, adding that “now a new generation of American men and women
, using today’s most advanced technology, will build a new arsenal to defeat the current enemy of global peace, health
, and stability: COVID-19.”
Pfizer's main COVID-19 vaccine plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan
, is not far from Detroit, he noted.
Last week, the White House announced plans to donate an initial 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas, primarily through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program, with infusions slated for South and Central America
, Asia, and Africa, among other places.
Officials say a quarter of the excess will be held in reserve for emergencies and for the United States to share directly with allies and partners, including South Korea, Taiwan
, and Ukraine
. Johnson said the United Kingdom would follow a similar model with its doses, holding 20% in reserve for bilateral agreements but sending the vast majority to COVAX.
Sullivan stated that Biden “wants to show — rallying the rest of the world’s democracies — that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people
The mRNA vaccines manufactured in the United States have also proven to be more effective against both the original strain and more dangerous variants of COVID-19 than the more conventional vaccines manufactured in China
, despite the fact that some countries that have had success in deploying those conventional vaccines have seen cases spike.