US agrees to buy 500m Pfizer vaccine doses to distribute to 100 countries | Joe Biden

The US has reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to buy 500m doses of their coronavirus vaccine to distribute to 100 countries around the world, as the centre-piece of Joe Biden initiative to help vaccinate the world against Covid-19, according to US reports.

Under to the scheme, which President Biden is expected to announce in the UK on Thursday, the US would pay for the vaccines at cost price. The first 200m doses would be distributed this year, and the remaining 300m in the first half of next year.

The New York Times and the Washington Post cited multiple sources familiar with the plan.

The global vaccine initiative is part of Biden’s broader strategy of restoring America’s global influence and soft power, which he believed has been eroded by Donald Trump’s four years in office and the increasingly assertive foreign policies of China and Russia.

Biden intends to use the G7 summit in Cornwall, and the Nato and EU summits in Brussels over the next few days, to make a case for renewed democratic leadership in the world, as a bulwark against the encroachment of autocracies. A significant part of the discussions over the weekend will be about how to achieve a more equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.

The US had already agreed on a contract to buy 300m Pfizer-BioNTech doses, so the global initiative will bring the country’s overall purchase to 800m.

Before the new initiative, the Biden administration planned to share at least 80m  vaccine doses with the world by the end of the month, 19m of them going to Covax, the global scheme backed by the World Health Organization. An additional 6m shots would be channeled directly to India and other countries suffering severe outbreaks.

Just over a month ago, the Biden administration announced its backing for a waiver on vaccine patents, with the aim of closing the vast “vaccine gap” between rich and poor countries – but the suggestion met resistance from European countries, who argued that patents were not the main bottleneck to production and distribution, and that waiving patents would discourage future pharmaceutical research and development.

The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, has traveled to the UK with the president. In a statement on Wednesday, he said the president would use the “momentum” of the US inoculation campaign “to rally the world’s democracies around solving this crisis globally, with America leading the way to create the arsenal of vaccines that will be critical in our global fight against Covid-19”.

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