President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a partnership between the United States and the European Union to further Covid-19 vaccination efforts around the world, as wealthy nations face criticism for stockpiling shots while people in many poorer countries go largely unvaccinated.
The partnership is just one part of Biden’s broader plan to ramp up the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 4 million people worldwide.
It comes two weeks after the World Health Organization slammed wealthy countries for hoarding and failing to distribute coronavirus vaccines and other pandemic resources, which contributes to Covid outbreaks around the world.
“The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations. As we’re doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges,” Biden said Wednesday at a virtual Covid-19 vaccination summit with leaders of the United Nations, World Health Organization and countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.
“That’s why, today, we’re launching the EU-U.S. vaccine partnership to work more closely together and with our partners on expanding global vaccinations,” he continued.
Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. is purchasing an additional half billion Pfizer vaccines to donate to poorer nations, doubling its total pledged commitment to over 1.1 billion doses.
The U.S. has shipped over 160 million doses of Covid vaccines to other countries, including 130 million from its own supply, Biden said.
“For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” the president said.
The EU has committed to donate over 500 million vaccine doses.
The WHO previously set a December deadline for vaccinating 40% of the world’s population, and hopes to vaccinate 10% of the population in every country by the end of September.
However, a widening inequality in global vaccination rates may prevent these goals from being met, with poorer countries lagging far behind wealthy ones.
The U.S. has fully immunized 54% of its population, and the 27 countries of the European Union have fully vaccinated 61% of their combined population, according to public health authorities.
Yet in Africa, less than 3.5% of the continent’s eligible population is fully immunized against the virus, according to the WHO. The global health body has repeatedly opposed the distribution of booster shots in wealthy countries, requesting that they redirect their surplus vaccines to lower-income nations.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster shots for people 65 and older as well as other vulnerable Americans. The FDA’s decision was in line with the recommendations of its vaccine advisory committee, which had cautioned against boosters for the general population.
Biden echoed the WHO’s call to aid poorer countries, urging global leaders on Wednesday and in his address to the United Nations Tuesday to step up their efforts to help vaccinate the world.
“Nothing is more urgent than all of us working together to defeat Covid-19,” Biden said at the Wednesday summit.
Through the new partnership, the U.S. and EU will work together to bolster the supply and delivery of vaccinations around the world. Biden proposed another virtual summit sometime “in the first quarter of 2022” to assess its progress.
The partnership will build on the efforts of a manufacturing and supply chain taskforce established after the U.S.-EU Summit in June, which pledged to resolve issues regarding global vaccine production.
The taskforce met in Washington, D.C., last week to identify its current priorities, including monitoring global supply chains for Covid vaccines, addressing disruptions in such supply chains and boosting vaccine production, according to a White House statement Wednesday.
Biden also highlighted on Wednesday that the U.S. will provide an additional $370 million to countries for the administration and delivery of vaccines. So far, the Biden administration has invested more than $15 billion toward the global Covid-19 response.
More than $380 million will also be given to the Global Vaccine Alliance, the organization overseeing daily operations for the COVAX vaccination project, Biden said at Wednesday’s summit.