Feb 19, 2021 - World

U.S. commits $4 billion to COVAX vaccine initiative

Biden. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty

The U.S. is committing $2 billion for the global COVAX vaccine initiative within days (using funds already allocated by Congress), plus an additional $2 billion over the next two years, the White House announced ahead of Friday's virtual G7 summit.

Why it matters: Senior administration officials told reporters Thursday evening that they'll use those commitments to "call on G7 partners Friday both to make good on the pledges that are already out there" and to make further investments in global vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

Yes, but: The discussion around COVID-19 aid is beginning to shift from dollars to doses. French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that it's time for Europe and the U.S. to begin supplying developing countries with COVID-19 vaccines.

The state of play: The U.S. has purchased 1.2 billion doses — enough to fully vaccinate every American adult 2.5 times over, assuming additional vaccines like Johnson & Johnson's are approved.

  • The situation is similar in other rich countries. Doses remain scarce for now, but supply will eventually far outstrip demand.

What they're saying: Macron told the FT that the U.S. and EU should begin sharing before that happens, sending 3–5% of all available doses to poor countries in parallel with the domestic rollout. He said the proposal already had German Chancellor Angela Merkel's support, and he hoped to convince Biden as well.

  • “We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and that we are not starting in poor countries,” Macron said.
  • That "unprecedented acceleration of global inequality" was paving the way for "a war of influence over vaccines," Macron said, and playing into the hands of Russia and China, which are exporting state-funded vaccines around the world.

The other side: The White House said on Thursday's briefing call that the administration planned to turn to donations only after all U.S. demand was met.

  • "When we have a sufficient supply, it is our intention to consider donating surplus vaccines," one senior official said.
  • Asked about Macron's comments and the timeline on donations, another official said, "There are a lot of options on the table, but I don't think we should get locked down in what we might do once the U.S. population is vaccinated."

Go deeper: America’s extra vaccine doses could be key to global supply

Go deeper