U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his administration's pledge to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer (PFE.N) coronavirus…
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his administration's pledge to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world's poorest countries, during a visit to St. Ives in Cornwall, Britain, June 10, 2021.

CORNWALL, ENGLAND - Ahead of the G-7 Summit in Britain, U.S. President Joe Biden formally announced his administration is donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 92 low- and middle-income countries. 

“These half a billion vaccines will start to be shipped in August, as quickly as they roll off the manufacturing line,” Biden said Thursday in Cornwall, adding that 200 million doses would be delivered by the end of this year and 300 million in the first half of 2022.

Biden said the donation, which was first announced Wednesday, will be made with no strings attached.  

“Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” Biden said.

Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer, joined the U.S. leader for the announcement.

“We are testing our vaccine's response to newly arising variants,” Bourla said, noting that so far not a single variant had escaped the protection provided by the vaccine.

With the pledge, the U.S. also aims to liberate itself from the uncomfortable reputation of being a vaccine hoarder.

The move was a signal that the U.S. “isn't as intensely parochial and inward focused,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and Americas program at Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London. That has been a deep concern globally, said Vinjamuri, not only during the Trump years but also throughout the early months of the Biden administration when Washington was not sharing doses despite a massive oversupply.

The U.S. president’s announcement came a day before the start of the G-7 summit, a meeting of the world’s most advanced democracies, in Cornwall.

“Tomorrow, G-7 nations will be announcing the full scope of our commitment,” Biden said. 


The doses, delivered by the U.S. through COVAX, the U.N. vaccine-sharing mechanism, are in addition to the 80 million already committed by the U.S. to be delivered by the end of June. In addition, the U.S. has given $2 billion to COVAX.

The U.S. initially pledged an additional $2 billion for COVAX but is now redirecting the money to help pay for the 500 million donated doses, which has an estimated cost of $3.5 billion.  

FILE - Boxes of AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccines, redeployed from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrive at a cold storage facility in Accra, Ghana, May 7, 2021.

Humanitarian organizations applauded the move. Tom Hart, acting CEO at the ONE Campaign, an organization that works to end poverty and preventable diseases, urged other G-7 countries to follow.   

“This action sends an incredibly powerful message about America’s commitment to helping the world fight this pandemic and the immense power of U.S. global leadership,” Hart said in a statement.   

Will other G-7 countries follow? 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday also pledged “millions” of doses for the world’s poorest. 

“At Carbis Bay, the G-7 will pledge to distribute vaccines to inoculate the world by the end of next year, with millions coming from surplus U.K. stocks,” Johnson announced in a statement.   

FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate in Parliament in London, Britain, May 19, 2021, in this screen grab taken from video. (Reuters TV via Reuters)

But it’s unclear just how much G-7 countries can help. The countries are at different stages of vaccinating their own populations. Japan and Canada, which have vaccination rates of under 10%, are not in a position to be as generous.  

Aside from donating vaccines, the G-7 is also under pressure to waive vaccine patents. The U.S. has supported waiving intellectual property rights on vaccines, the so-called TRIPS waiver, at the World Trade Organization. But the European Union is pushing for a different proposal: compulsory licensing to scale up vaccine production.    

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told VOA that the different approaches would not be a point of contention at the G-7.  

“I anticipate convergence, because we're all converging around the idea that we need to boost vaccine supply in a number of ways,” said Sullivan.   

The Biden administration knows that Europe will likely hold firm on not supporting the waiver, said Vinjamuri of Chatham House, adding that getting all members of the WTO to agree on a waiver is a long and challenging process, and it’s simply easier to donate vaccines rather than allow countries to produce them without fear of being sued. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA the U.S. will continue WTO negotiations but would not provide details on whether Biden will put his diplomatic weight behind it at the G-7.         

Biden-Johnson summit 

Prior to his vaccine announcement, Biden met Thursday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with whom he has had disagreements in the past. Biden had once called Johnson a clone of Donald Trump.     

The leaders agreed on a new Atlantic Charter, modeled on the statement made by then-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 to promote democracy and free trade. 

The 2021 Atlantic Charter underscores that, with similar values and combined strength, the two countries will work together to face the enormous challenges facing the planet — from COVID and climate change to maintaining global security.

FILE - Pro-Union Loyalists demonstrate against the Northern Ireland Protocol implemented following Brexit, on the road leading to the Port of Larne in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, April 6, 2021.

Biden, who is of Irish descent, is also concerned that Brexit could undermine the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 deal  facilitated by the United States that brought peace to Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. 

Under the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland remains party to the EU's single market, yet is no longer part of the union, which means a customs border must be implemented. The Biden administration wants to ensure that nothing in Brexit could endanger prospects for peace. 

Biden’s support for the Good Friday Agreement is “rock-solid,” Sullivan told VOA. 

“That agreement must be protected, and any steps that imperil or undermine it will not be welcomed by the United States," said Sullivan. He would not say whether Johnson is undermining the agreement. 

Despite these tensions, Biden is very committed to anchoring the G-7 in the U.S.-U.K. partnership, said Vinjamuri. “Really using America's deep and historic relationship with Britain to affirm the values of democracy, of liberalism, of freedom.” 

Johnson's government has just concluded an integrated review of its foreign policy strategy, which included a reaffirmation of the special relationship between the two allies.