U.S. to Buy 500 Million Pfizer Shots for Low-Income Nations

Vials of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Mexico. (Photographer: Mauricio Palos/Bloomberg)

U.S. to Buy 500 Million Pfizer Shots for Low-Income Nations

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President Joe Biden’s administration intends to buy 500 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine to share internationally, as the U.S. turns its attention to combating the pandemic globally, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The government will buy about 200 million doses this year to distribute through Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative aimed at securing an equitable global distribution of the vaccine, and about 300 million doses in the first half of next year, the person said.

The vaccines will go to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, the person said. Biden will announce the plan Thursday in remarks ahead of the Group of Seven summit in the U.K.

As he arrived in the country on Wednesday, G-7 leaders and their staffs were putting together a document that outlines a plan to end the pandemic by December 2022. At the summit in Cornwall, the presidents and prime ministers will pledge to deliver at least 1 billion extra doses of vaccines over the next year to help cover 80% of the world’s adult population, according to a draft communique seen by Bloomberg News.

The G-7 countries also plan to make a commitment to hasten the shift from fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and to promote “green transitions” in developing countries, according to the draft communique. Other topics covered in the document include demanding that Russia hold accountable the cyber criminals who carry out ransomware attacks from within its borders; and a pledge to confront forced labor in supply chains, particularly involving the garment and solar industries.

China is not mentioned by name in that part of the communique, but the Beijing government has come under intense international criticism over its treatment of the Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group in the Xinjiang region.

Slowing Vaccinations

In the U.S., the pace of the domestic vaccination campaign has slowed by about two-thirds since April, and Biden has come under rising pressure internationally to share his government’s vaccine stockpile with nations still hard-hit by the pandemic.

Biden said before departing for the G-7 on Wednesday that he would announce a global vaccination strategy during his travels. He didn’t elaborate.

The plan to buy 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine was reported earlier by the Washington Post. Representatives for Pfizer didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Pfizer and its vaccine partner, BioNTech SE, already have an agreement to supply Covax with 40 million doses, but the group pleaded with global leaders last month to provide far more, saying it needed to provide 2 billion doses this year.

‘Urgent Shortfall’

“Even though Covax will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals it has already secured with several manufacturers, if we do not address the current, urgent shortfall the consequences could be catastrophic,” Covax said in a statement.

Separately, Moderna Inc. said it’s interested in partnering with the U.S. government on possibly providing additional doses of it Covid-19 vaccine to help address the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries.

Spokesman Ray Jordan said in an email that the company wouldn’t provide additional details about any particular talks. The talks between Moderna and the U.S. were reported earlier by CNBC.

Moderna is in the process of expanding its manufacturing capacity so it can produce up to 3 billion vaccine doses next year, compared with its goal of up to 1 billion this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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