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US donates half billion more COVID-19 vaccine doses


US donates half billion more COVID-19 vaccine doses
U.S. president Joe Biden speaks during the 76th session of the United Nations general assembly on Tuesday in New York - Reuters

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WASHINGTON – The United States promised on Wednesday to buy 500 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries as it comes under increasing pressure to share its supply with the rest of the world.

President Joe Biden made the announcement during a virtual summit aimed at boosting global vaccination rates against the coronavirus and rallying world leaders to do more.

“To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere,” Biden said as he kicked off the summit, which included leaders from Britain, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as World Health Organisation head, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is an all-hands on deck crisis,” Biden said of the pandemic that has raged since early last year, killing at least 4.913 million people.

The additional vaccines will bring U.S. donations to more than 1.1 billion doses, far short of the five billion to six billion doses global health experts said were needed by poorer countries.

Delivery of the new tranche will begin in January.

Biden said the U.S. would provide U.S. $370 million “to support administering these shots” and more than U.S. $380 million to help the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) handle vaccine distribution in regions with the greatest need.

The vaccines from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE will be made in the United States and shipped to low and lower middle-income countries.

A source familiar with the issue said the U.S. government would pay about U.S. $7 a dose.

The COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organisation and GAVI, has delivered more than 286 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 141 countries, GAVI data shows.

In September, the organisations running the facility had to cut their 2021 delivery target by nearly 30 per cent to 1.425 billion doses.

Vaccination rates in some countries, including Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are less than one per cent, a Reuters tracker shows.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres reprimanded world leaders on Tuesday for the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as an “obscenity” and giving the globe an “F in Ethics”.