Biden administration negotiates purchase of 500 million doses of Pfizer for overseas


The Biden administration is negotiating with Pfizer to purchase an additional 500 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to be donated overseas, which would bring the total number of planned donations to 1.15 billion doses – about a tenth of global needs – according to two people familiar with the plan. The duration of the donation was not immediately clear.

The deal is not yet final, but talks come just in time for a global summit on Covid-19 that Biden will host on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week. The president will use the summit to convince other countries to put aside national demands and instead focus on sending vaccine doses to poor countries dependent on vaccine donations.

Separately, White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview an official summit announcement later on Friday, said Mr. Biden’s message to other nations would be that the United States cannot and must not do it alone, and that all nations must honor existing commitments.

The talks with Pfizer, which were reported without details earlier in The Washington Post, also comes as Mr Biden comes under fire for offering booster shots for Americans already vaccinated when citizens of poor countries have not even received their first doses. A Food and Drug Administration scientific advisory committee on Friday recommended booster shots for recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine aged 65 or older or at high risk of severe Covid-19, at least six months after the second injection. The move came shortly after the panel overwhelmingly recommended not approving a Pfizer booster for people 16 and older.

Jeff Zients, Mr Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, declined to give details of the talks, saying only that how to help the 100 countries that need it most would be “a big topic of conversation” during the conference. United Nations meeting.

The World Health Organization has called on world leaders to refrain from rolling out boosters at least until the end of the year, with the goal of vaccinating 40% of the world’s population first. Its experts, and others, have said that a much more aggressive – and comprehensive – approach to tackling the global pandemic is needed.

“A piecemeal approach favors those who can most easily pay,” Dr Kate O’Brien, WHO’s top vaccine expert, told reporters earlier this week. Without naming the United States, she noted that some countries “are moving forward with recall programs where we see no evidence that would support a need for large-scale recall programs in the general population. And at the same time, others have not even started to sufficiently immunize health workers or high-risk groups. “

The summit, which Biden plans to convene on Wednesday, will be the largest gathering of heads of state dedicated to tackling the coronavirus crisis. Previous gatherings have included much smaller leadership groups, such as the Group of 7 Nations.

White House officials have said Mr Biden aims to inject a new sense of urgency in the fight against the pandemic, as well as to “create a bigger tent” of people and groups determined to end the pandemic. pandemic. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, philanthropists and non-governmental organizations are invited to participate.

Officials said Biden wanted to forge consensus around a broad framework for action, including specific goals for immunization. Officials offered few details, saying specific goals were still under discussion.

However, the White House sent a draft document to summit guests earlier this week that called for the immunization of 70 percent of the world’s population by the time the UN meets again in September next year.

Experts have estimated that 11 billion doses are needed to achieve broad global immunity against the coronavirus. The United States has already pledged to send more than 600 million doses overseas and is working to ramp up manufacturing there and abroad, particularly in India.

But global health advocates say donating doses is not enough. They want Mr Biden to work on setting up manufacturing centers in many other countries and lobby vaccine makers to share their technology in a large-scale plan similar to the one in the world. old President George W. Bush created to fight the global AIDS epidemic.

White House officials who discussed Mr. Biden’s summit plan have insisted the United States can do both. In an interview earlier this week, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Mr Biden’s chief advisor on the coronavirus – and a driving force behind Mr Bush’s emergency plan to fight AIDS – said that the he administration was determined to do more.

“We are trying to figure out what is the best way to launch a really effective program,” said Dr Fauci, noting that building manufacturing plants overseas might be a reasonable step to prepare for future pandemics, but that could not happen. quickly enough to end this one. “We want to do more, but we are trying to determine what is the right and the best approach. “

Achieving specific global immunization targets has so far proven difficult. Covax, the UN-backed vaccine distribution program, announced this month that it would not be able to meet its forecast of doses available in 2021. So far, only 20% of people in poor and middle-income countries have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

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