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US President Joe Biden boosting world COVID-19 vaccine sharing commitment to 80 million doses

The announcement comes on top of the Joe Biden's administration's prior commitment to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the US, by the end of June.

May 18, 2021 / 07:19 AM IST
US Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House. (Image: AP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House. (Image: AP)

US President Joe Biden said on May 17 that the United States will share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks as domestic demand for shots drops and global disparities in distribution have grown more evident.

The doses will come from existing production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, marking the first time that US-controlled doses of vaccines authorized for use in the country will be shared overseas. It will boost the global vaccine sharing commitment from the US to 80 million.

"We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control," Biden said at the White House.

The announcement comes on top of the Biden's administration's prior commitment to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the US, by the end of June. The AstraZeneca doses will be available to ship once they clear a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Biden also tapped COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients to lead the administration's efforts to share doses with the world.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"Our nation's going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world," Biden said. He added that, compared to other countries like Russia and China that have sought to leverage their domestically produced doses, "we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries."

The Biden administration hasn't yet said how the new commitment of vaccines will be shared or which countries will receive them.

To date, the US has shared about 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and Mexico. Additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine manufactured in the US have begun to be exported as the company has met its initial contract commitments to the federal government.

The US has faced growing pressure to share more of its vaccine stockpile with the world as interest in vaccines has waned domestically.

"While wealthy countries continue ramping up vaccinations, less than 1 percent of COVID-19 vaccine doses globally have been administered to people in low-income countries," said Tom Hart the acting CEO of the ONE Campaign. "The sooner the US and other wealthy countries develop a coordinated strategy for sharing vaccine doses with the world's most vulnerable, the faster we will end the global pandemic for all."

More than 157 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 123 million are full vaccinated against the virus. Biden hopes the US will have 160 million people fully vaccinated by July Fourth.

Globally, more than 3.3 million people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus. The US has seen the largest confirmed loss of life from COVID-19, at more than 586,000 people.
Associated Press
first published: May 18, 2021 07:19 am

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