Picture: 123RF/S SILVER
Picture: 123RF/S SILVER

Washington — The US plans to buy 500-million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to share internationally as President Joe Biden prepares to join other Group of Seven (G-7) leaders in a campaign to end the pandemic by distributing shots worldwide.

As Biden and other G-7 leaders gathered for the start of their summit in the UK, their teams were putting together a document that outlines a plan to end the Covid-19 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 US government will buy about 200-million doses in 2021 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 2022, said a person familiar with the matter.

The vaccines will go to 92 lower-income countries and the AU, the person said. Biden will announce that plan on Thursday in remarks before the summit gets under way.

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 labour 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.

The draft communique delves further into coronavirus policy and backs a common standard for travel that would include recognition of a person’s vaccination status.

Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet in Cornwall before the summit to announce a joint task force to explore options to resume travel between their countries. Before the pandemic, more than 5-million Britons visited the US and more than 4.5-million Americans visited Britain every year, according to figures released by Johnson’s office.

Nations still struggling

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

Biden said before departing for Europe 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, already have an agreement to supply Covax with 40-million doses, but the group pleaded with global leaders in May to provide far more, saying it needed to provide 2-billion doses in 2021.

China, meanwhile, has supplied 350-million doses to more than 80 developing countries around the world, state-backed China Daily reported, citing an official from the country’s top industry regulator. Two inactivated vaccines developed by state-owned Sinopharm and private vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech have been given the green light by the World Health Organization for emergency use, paying the way for broader distribution around the world through Covax.

Covax ‘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 said it’s interested in partnering with the US government on possibly providing additional doses of it Covid-19 vaccine to help address the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries.

Spokesperson Ray Jordan said the company wouldn’t provide additional details about any particular talks. The talks between Moderna and the US were reported earlier by CNBC.

Moderna is in the process of expanding its manufacturing capacity so it can produce as many as 3-billion vaccine doses in 2022, compared with its goal of up to 1-billion in 2021.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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