Coronavirus: Biden doubling purchase of vaccines to share globally

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. government plans to buy another half billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to donate to low- and middle-income countries amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Update 11:30 a.m. EDT Sept. 22: Biden announced the decision Wednesday at a virtual COVID-19 summit on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden noted that the U.S. previously committed to donating 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the vaccine-sharing facility COVAX, “more than every other country’s donation combined.” He added that, as president, his first responsibility is “to protect the American people.”

“But we also know that to beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere, and I made and I’m keeping the promise that America will become the arsenal of vaccines as we were the arsenal of democracy during World War II,” he said.

“The United States is buying another half billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low- and middle-income countries around the world. This is another half billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year, and it brings our total commitment… of donated vaccines to be over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated.”

Original report: President Joe Biden plans to announce that the U.S. government will buy 1 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to share with other countries – double the amount he had originally planned to purchase.

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According to The Associated Press, the news came early Wednesday before Biden was set to address a virtual global vaccination summit as the U.N. General Assembly meets. He also is expected to push for 70% of the world’s population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the next 12 months, the AP reported.

Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported that so far, 43.7% of the global population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared with just 2% of the population in some low-income countries – many of which rely on the U.N.-backed COVAX program. About 6 billion doses have gone in arms worldwide, according to the university.

In the United States, about 63.9% of residents have received at least one dose, while 54.8% are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. In the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Spain, more than 80% of people have had at least one jab, compared with less than 10% of residents in Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, according to the Oxford data.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, no Republican lawmakers had publicly commented about the planned purchase.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.