U.S. raising world vaccine pledge to more than 1.1 billion doses

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WASHINGTON – The United States plans to send an additional 500 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world, increasing the total doses donated to other nations to more than 1.1 billion.

President Joe Biden announced that commitment at the start of a virtual COVID summit he hosted Wednesday.

"The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations," Biden told world leaders and others participating by video. "As we’re doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own vaccination donations and pledges."

Biden also announced a $370 million commitment to support administering vaccinations in other countries. And he said the U.S. is providing nearly $1.4 billion to reduce COVID-19 deaths and transmissions by increasing the availability of oxygen, expanding testing and strengthening health systems.

"My first responsibility is to protect the American people," Biden said. "But we also know that to beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere.”

The 500 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be made in the United States, according to a senior administration official who provided the information on the condition of anonymity. The doses will begin shipping to other countries in January.

The White House did not put a price tag on the promise but said the vaccines would be purchased from Pfizer/BioNTech at a "not-for-profit price."

The president announced an initial commitment of 500 million doses in June.

Biden has promised to make the United States the “arsenal of vaccines for the world," having already shipped more than 160 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other countries and contributed more than $15 billion toward the global response.

But the United States has also been criticized for not doing more.

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President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual COVID-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual COVID-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Washington.

The Biden administration is ignoring the World Health Organization's request to not consider booster shots for Americans until more people around the globe have received a first shot.

The White House has insisted it can both take the steps needed to protect Americans while sending vaccines across the world.

For every dose already put into the arm of an American, the nation will now be donating three shots to other countries, according to the president.

At the summit – attended by both heads of state and the leaders of international organizations, the private sector and others – the administration is encouraging attendees to work toward the goal of getting 70% of the population in every country vaccinated by next September.

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The world needs an estimated 11 billion doses to bring the pandemic under control, according to the World Health Organization.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will convene foreign ministers later this year to check on progress.

Biden also wants to conduct a second virtual summit in the first quarter of next year to stay on target.

Biden kicked off Wednesday's four-hour event that also included sessions led by other U.S. officials on expanding testing and treatments, health security financing and challenging public and private sector leaders to do more.

Leading off an afternoon session, Vice President Kamala Harris urged countries and corporations to contribute toward a World Bank fund to help nations get ready for future pandemics

“We have learned the cost of failing to prepare,” she said.

The United States is committing at least $250 million toward the fund and has asked Congress for an additional $850 million.

Harris said the total goal is at least $10 billion.

Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, urged summit attendees to "put the most vulnerable people at the center of their discussion."

“Most of the world’s population and nearly all of those who are displaced are living in nations which have little or no vaccine development and manufacturing capacity," Rosenhauer said. "Until all of us are afforded the opportunity to receive vaccine protection, none of us will be truly free from the threat of this virus.”

Maureen Groppe has covered Washington for nearly three decades and is now a White House correspondent for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @mgroppe.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden raised world vaccine pledge to more than 1.1 billion doses

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