The US will purchase 500m Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer to donate to other countries, Joe Biden will announce on Thursday, a significant expansion of the country’s efforts to help increase inoculation rates around the world.
The Biden administration had agreed to buy 200m doses this year and 300m in the first half of next year to send to other countries, according to a person familiar with the deal, who confirmed an earlier report by The Washington Post.
The agreement marks a significant expansion of the US vaccine export drive, following criticism that the country was hoarding doses instead of helping those in need.
The White House did not comment, while Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request to do so. Biden is expected to make the announcement in the UK, ahead of the G7 summit this weekend in Cornwall.
The US has overseen one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world, providing at least one dose to just over half of its population. But demand for doses has slowed in recent weeks, and just over 1m people are now receiving vaccinations each day — down from about 3.5m a day in April.
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Biden has previously promised to donate 80m doses from the country’s stockpile, the first 25m of which were allocated last week. That pledge has drawn criticism from some experts, who warn that more will be needed to help countries like India, which has seen a devastating second wave of the disease in recent months.
All 500m doses would be allocated through the Covax scheme backed by the World Health Organization, according to the person briefed on the details, and given to 92 countries. The government’s side of the negotiations was spearheaded by Jeff Zients, the head of Biden’s Covid-19 task force, the person added.