The White House announced Thursday that it would ship 25 million doses of its stock of COVID-19 vaccines immediately, as part of its plan to share 80 million doses by the end of June.
This first wave of distribution will respond to countries’ immediate needs and address dangerous surges occuring around the world, such as in India, Ukraine, and Iraq, according to the New York Times. Nineteen million vaccine doses will be shared via COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, while the remaining 6 million doses are going to be targeted toward “regional priorities and partner recipients,” including Mexico, Canada, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Republic of Korea.
In May, the Biden administration said that it would answer the call to share COVID-19 vaccines with low-income countries by pledging 80 million doses from its supply, which are made up of the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“As the United States continues our efforts to get every eligible American vaccinated and fight COVID-19 here at home, we also recognize that ending this pandemic means ending it everywhere,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”
While the global total of cases has steadily decreased in recent weeks as COVID-19 vaccinations and lockdown restrictions prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some regions of the world are more at risk of encountering a dangerous surge than others.
South Africa reported a more than 60% rise in new COVID-19 cases last week as its vaccination campaign struggles to inoculate its population. The World Health Organization said that all countries in Africa are facing the risk of encountering another surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths as vaccine shipments to the continent have stopped.
While $14.6 billion has been pledged to date by wealthy nations and companies to support COVAX, public health officials say the efforts are not enough to ensure 70% of the world’s population is vaccinated against COVID-19.
In order to prevent the development of new COVID-19 strains from rendering vaccines useless and raising the global death toll above 3.69 million, world leaders must commit to donating additional doses of vaccines.
In May, the Global Health Summit took place in Rome to encourage world leaders to pledge new commitments to vaccine sharing. Germany, France, and the Netherlands announced specific commitments of dollars and doses to aid in global vaccination efforts. This week, Japan hosted a virtual pledging summit, which raised $2.6 billion and secured 54 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for COVAX.
By sending 25 million doses to countries in need before vaccinating at least 70% of the American population, the United States is emerging as an example for other wealthy nations to follow.
Canada has ordered more COVID-19 vaccines per capita than any other country in the world, but has not begun sharing doses. And while the United Kingdom has said it would donate surplus doses, it has also not shared a single COVID-19 vaccine with countries in need.
Next week, members of the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — will meet in England to discuss how the world can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and address climate change. To stop the pandemic from taking any more lives, Global Citizen is calling on G7 leaders to share 1 billion extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with populations in need.
COVID-19 cannot end for anyone until it ends for everyone, and experts warn that vaccine nationalism is getting in the way of the world’s recovery from the pandemic.