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The Biden administration on Tuesday is shipping the first of the 500 million Covid-19 doses that President Joe Biden pledged to share with countries around the world at the Group of Seven summit earlier this year.
The US is sending 488,370 doses of Pfizer to Rwanda through the global vaccination program called Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, a White House official told CNN. This batch includes the first 188,370 doses of the 500 million Pfizer doses purchased by the Biden administration, the official said. The remaining 300,000 doses of Pfizer going to Rwanda come from existing US supply.
“Today, we are shipping over 488,000 doses of Pfizer to Rwanda, including the first 100,000 doses from @POTUS’$2 500 million shots pledged and purchased this summer. This is just the beginning,” assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz tweeted on Tuesday morning.
The move is part of the President’s effort to have America be an “arsenal of vaccines” in the fight against Covid-19. Biden has repeatedly stressed there are no strings attached with accepting the US-bought vaccines.
Officials have said that 200 million of the 500 million doses will be delivered by the end of this year, and the remaining 300 million doses will be delivered in the first half of 2022. About 75% of these vaccines will be shared with COVAX and about 25% will be shared directly with countries in need.
The administration has also already distributed the 80 million doses the President initially pledged to donate from US supply.
The move to donate hundreds of millions of vaccines around the world will also serve to counter efforts by Russia and China to use their own state-funded vaccines to expand their global influence. The White House has said it has been monitoring and is concerned by efforts by Russia and China to use vaccines to make geopolitical gains. Many countries – including in Latin America, which has traditionally been an area of US influence – have been buying up large numbers of Russian and Chinese vaccines to fill the gaps in their own vaccine roll outs.
Distributing vaccines globally has been a complex undertaking for the Biden administration. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients and national security adviser Jake Sullivan have worked with multiple federal agencies, including the Defense Department and State Department, to coordinate the process and maintain that the doses are delivered without strings attached.
The President has also said $2 billion in US contributions would go toward a global coronavirus vaccine initiative and would provide support to COVAX. He also pledged an additional $2 billion in funding contingent on contributions from other nations and dose delivery targets being met.
The moves come as the US races to get the rest of the US population vaccinated, particularly as the Delta variant of Covid-19 rips through areas of the country with low vaccination rates. As of Tuesday morning, more than 168,000 Americans had been fully vaccinated and 72.1% of US adults had received at least their first Covid-19 dose.