WASHINGTON — The United States will double the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses it is donating to the global inoculation effort, President Joe Biden plans to announce Wednesday.
The commitment will bring to more than 1 billion the total number of doses the U.S. has pledged to other countries in hopes of bringing the pandemic to a close and preventing dangerous variants from emerging.
The highly contagious delta variant, which was first detected in India, has underscored the danger of uncontrolled spread, ripping through unvaccinated communities and causing another surge in deaths.
Increasing international vaccine distribution is “the only way to defeat COVID-19 and protect the American people and grow the American economy,” said a senior administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the announcement before it becomes official.
The president is scheduled to unveil the assistance during a virtual summit on the pandemic that’s being convened during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Biden has already pledged more than 500 million doses, with 160 million shipped so far. The next 500 million doses will be manufactured in the U.S. and distribution is scheduled to begin in January, the senior administration official said.
The vaccines are being provided “free of charge, no strings attached,” the official said.
The U.S. has also been under pressure to contribute more vaccine to other countries, especially as administration officials prepare to make booster shots available this year — meaning some Americans will probably receive three doses when many people in poor countries haven’t received one.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the uneven vaccination distribution is “a moral indictment of the state of our world.” More than 70% of the 5.7 billion vaccine doses administrated globally have gone to just 10 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Dr. William Parker, a medical ethicist and assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago, said shipping doses overseas “would do far more good” in terms of saving lives.