A plan to revive a stumbling campaign to get Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries got a critical boost from U.S. plans to donate 500 million shots developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. by next June, part of an expected announcement by a group of world leaders that they will provide one billion doses.
While rich countries in North America and Europe have largely immunized their high-risk citizens and are now moving to vaccinate teenagers ahead of the new school year, many poor nations are facing new surges in infections with little protection. In Africa, for instance, just 0.6% of the population has been fully vaccinated, compared with 42% in the U.S.
The developing world has emerged as the focal point of the pandemic, with infections and deaths reaching new records in recent months in part because of low vaccination rates.
After the U.S. said it would donate the 500 million doses, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said Thursday that the U.K. will donate 100 million surplus vaccine doses to the rest of the world within the next year. Those commitments are part of at least one billion doses world leaders are expected to say they will provide “through dose sharing and financing and set out a plan to expand vaccine manufacturing in order to achieve that goal,” Mr. Johnson’s office said ahead of the Group of Seven summit.
Health officials in developing countries said ahead of the summit that they hope the 500 million doses due to be donated by the U.S. will encourage other rich governments to step up. The announcement “is a monumental step forward” in the global effort to get vaccines to poor countries, said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s director for the Africa region. “We are now seeing wealthy nations starting to turn promises into action.”