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Biden to announce plan to give 500 million Covid vaccine doses to countries in need

The announcement comes amid concerns about Covid-19 variants and China's and Russia's vaccine diplomacy strategies.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce Thursday at the G-7 meeting in Britain a plan to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to donate to other countries struggling with a limited supply, according to three people familiar with the plans.

Of the doses, 200 million will be donated this year and 300 million will be donated across the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed through COVAX — a humanitarian program run in part by the World Health Organization that aims to distribute vaccines fairly — to 92 low-income countries, as well as the African Union.

COVAX's goal is to make 2 billion doses available to countries in need by the end of the year. So far, about 81 million vaccine doses have been shipped to over 129 participants.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling with the president Wednesday afternoon that Biden would use the G-7 summit to encourage other democratic allies to donate more vaccine doses to countries in need and that the G-7 would also make a joint announcement about its efforts to boost global vaccinations.

Sullivan said that contributing to global vaccination efforts was the "smart" thing to do because of the threat of Covid-19 variants and that the emphasis on partnering with other democracies was aimed at demonstrating that democratic systems are equipped to "best deliver solutions for people everywhere."

The Washington Post first reported the announcement.

Biden, who has prioritized vaccinating people in the U.S. before offering doses to other countries, faces increasing pressure to do more to help other countries as concerns rise that China's and Russia's strategy of selling or donating their vaccines to other countries allows them to expand their influence throughout the world.

The U.S. and other wealthy countries have been criticized for racing ahead in their vaccine rollouts as poorer countries struggle to obtain vaccines. Experts have warned that global vaccination inequality could prolong the pandemic for everyone if the coronavirus continues to mutate, which could make it more infectious and resistant to vaccines.

The Biden administration had announced that it would ship 80 million shots abroad by the end of June. The first shipments of those doses will go out in the coming weeks.

When asked by reporters Wednesday morning before boarding Air Force One whether he planned to announce a new global vaccine strategy, Biden said, "I have one, and I'll be announcing it."