Administration officials suggested the move was part of a broader effort for the world’s democracies to recover from the pandemic.
“This will clearly be the largest ever purchase and donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country, and it is an unprecedented response,” a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday.
“We want to do everything we can to prevent more tragic losses around the world,” the official said, adding that “it is in our national interest to end this pandemic everywhere.”
“Covid-19 knows no boundaries, and as long as this virus is in our world, Americans are at risk,” the official said, emphasizing how the virus is “a threat to economic opportunity.”
The move will also serve to counter attempts by Russia and China to use their own state-funded vaccines to expand their influence around the world.
Millions of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine are making their way around the world, along with China’s Sinovac and Sinoform shots. Only the sinoform vaccine is accepted in the COVAX initiative of the World Health Organization.
Many countries – including Latin America, which has traditionally been an area of US influence – are buying large numbers of Russian and Chinese vaccines to fill gaps in their own vaccine rollouts.
The White House has said it is monitoring and is concerned about attempts by Russia and China to use vaccines to make geopolitical gains.
The move is also intended to encourage other US allies to step up.
A separate senior official said, “We are using this announcement today to leverage and mobilize great commitments from the world’s democracies, from the G7 and partner countries,” previewing a “Multilateral Declaration on the G7 COVID-19” doing.
At the G7 summit later this week, the official said, the leaders will announce a “collective effort by the world’s democracies to defeat COVID-19 once and for all”.
The donation comes as Biden has repeatedly said that the world is at a turning point to show whether democracy can prevail over autocracy.
By a deadline, officials said Pfizer’s dosing will begin in August and 200 million doses will be supplied by the end of this year. The remaining 300 million doses will be delivered in the first half of 2022. They will be manufactured in the US, officials said, “employing thousands of workers” in states such as Michigan, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The cost will be about $1.5 billion, which will come from funds already allocated in the US Rescue Plan relief package passed earlier this year.
There will be no condition for the nations receiving the dose.
“The United States is not seeking favors in return for these supplements, we are not demanding for countries to receive these supplements, we are not imposing political, economic, or other conditions. We are guided by science. and public health experts to allocate them to the places where they can make the most difference,” another senior official said.
Biden previously committed to sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries. Last week, the Biden administration announced an overall framework for sharing the first 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the rest of the world and distributing at least 80 million doses by the end of June.
The White House said that about 75% of the donated vaccines will be shared with a global immunization program called COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access, or COVAX, and about 25% will be shared directly with countries in need.
Biden said last month the US would share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June, on top of the 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the president had already committed to sharing by July 4. An additional 20 million doses will include vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson as well as AstraZeneca, which have to be approved by federal regulators before being shipped overseas.