The USA will donate half a billion Covid-19 doses to countries in need. Photos: Twitter / President Biden

US President Joe Biden, who is currently in the UK attending the G7 Summit, has made a historic Covid-19 Vaccine announcement: the US will donate half a billion new vaccine doses to 92 countries in dire need in the fight against the pandemic, including South Africa.

“It’s the right thing to do — and the smart thing to do. These vaccines will save millions of lives,” the President tweeted.

He said: “Today, I’m announcing that the United States will donate half a billion new Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries. These Pfizer vaccines will save millions of lives around the world, and be produced through the power of American manufacturing.”

Speaking in the UK on Thursday evening, President Biden said the US will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine and donate them to 100 of the lowest [low]-income countries in the world and all members of the African Union member states… which includes South Africa.

The US expects to start shipping the doses in August, with 200 million doses to be delivered this year, and the remaining 300 million to be delivered across the first half of 2022.

This will be the largest purchase and donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country by far, and it’s an unprecedented step to respond to an unprecedented pandemic, the White House said today.

At a press briefing, the White House said the US has vaccinated 64 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot, and fully vaccinated 53 percent of adult Americans. As a result, in many states the pandemic is in retreat and the country is increasingly focused on driving progress to help end the pandemic around the globe.

Senior officials at the White House briefing today said “since President Biden took office, cases are down over 90 percent and deaths are down over 85 percent”.

The US has lost more people to Covid-19 than any other country in the world, with almost 600,000 deaths. “We want to do everything we can to prevent more tragic loss of life around the globe,” said the White House.

“Second, it’s in our own national interest to end this pandemic everywhere. COVID-19 knows no borders. And as long as this virus has a hold somewhere in the world, Americans are at risk.”

As the US has learnt, the pandemic has threatened more than just health… but also economic growth.

Under President Biden’s leadership, the U.S. has already contributed more to COVAX than any other country.

Recently, the President also committed to sharing 80 million doses with the world

“Today, we are taking another major step forward — a step that will supercharge the global fight against this pandemic and save millions of lives around the world,” said the White House. So the total is 580 doses.

The Pfizer vaccine has proven to be “extremely effective against COVID-19 and every known variant of this virus”, said a media moderator. “And these doses will jumpstart vaccination efforts in some of the most hard-hit and underserved populations in the world, bringing hope to every corner of the world and saving millions of lives.”

As President Biden said, the vaccines will be manufactured in the US, employing thousands of workers in places like Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The US said it is also using this announcement to mobilize larger commitments from other democracies from the G7 and partner countries.

The US says these doses are about saving lives, improving livelihoods and beating a pandemic. The US will not be seeking favours in exchange for these doses.

“We’re not making demands in order for countries to get these doses. We are not imposing conditions — political or economic, or otherwise — on countries receiving these doses,” said a senior official.

Doses will be allocated to places where they can make the most difference.

The financial price to the US has not yet been finalised – a contract with not-for-profit prices is being negotiated, and will be made public once signed. A senior official estimated the doses will cost about $1.5-billion, which will be paid for by already-appropriated funds from the American Rescue Plan. The US also plans to work with COVAX to use the second $2 billion in funding of the R4 billion the country committed to the fight against the pandemic.

In countries that need help getting the doses from the plane to its citizens, the US will act as a partner to ensure they have the necessary personnel, technical assistance and so on to be able to successfully vaccinate their people.

“So we are very mindful of the fact that this has to be part of a multifaceted effort to end the pandemic. We have resources for that purpose, we have partners for that purpose, and we will be working with the other G7 countries as well to ensure that this is an integrated strategy,” said an official.