Fact check that Biden claims the US is the world’s “vaccine arsenal”
At the COVID-19 virtual summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week, US President Joe Biden announced an additional donation of 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to low- and middle-income countries in the United Nations. lower bracket, bringing the total pledges of the United States. donations to 1.1 billion photos.
“I made – and I keep – the promise that America will become the arsenal of vaccines like we were the arsenal of democracy in World War II,” Biden said at the summit.
Here are some facts and the context surrounding this claim.
How many doses has the United States promised and shipped?
Of the 1.1 billion doses promised by the United States, nearly 172 million were shipped to more than 100 countries, according to the State Department.
Most are distributed through COVAX, the global vaccine sharing initiative co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the World Health Organization; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and some through bilateral agreements.
This makes the United States the world leader in promised and shipped doses, according to compiled data by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center starting October 1.
The following commitments come from the European Union (500 million), France (120 million) and the United Kingdom, Germany and China (100 million each).
The countries that sent the most donations after the United States are China (47 million), the EU (33.8 million), Japan (21.5 million) and Germany (9.9 million) .
The promised 1.1 billion doses are in line with the administration’s commitment to donate three injections for each injection administered nationally. Until there, 392 million shots were donated in the United States
The question is when the United States will meet the remainder of its nearly billion-dose commitment.
“The claim that this is a vaccine arsenal for the world is an excellent topic for discussion,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. “It would be great to see it put into action.”
The United States shipped only 15% of the 1.1 billion doses promised. It lags behind other countries with considerably less ambitious donation targets, including China (46%), Japan (30%) and France (8%).
When and to whom will the rest be shipped?
The White House said an additional 200 million doses would be distributed by the end of the year and the remaining 800 million would be sent by September 2022.
“The world can’t wait that long,” said Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University. He said the United States should increase its shipments now, especially if it is to meet its target Support WHO’s goal of having at least 70% of the world’s population fully immunized in every country and income group by September 2022.
The administration did not provide a plan identifying the countries planned for future expeditions. Jeremy Konyndyk, executive director of the US Agency for International Development’s COVID-19 task force, said countries already enrolled in COVAX and ready to receive and distribute vaccines will be online first. Those who are not will receive vaccines as their ability to receive them increases.
“It’s really hard to project into this full-time period where any country will shake off,” Konyndyk said. “We’re sort of working and making adjustments as the pandemic evolves.”
What surplus does the United States have?
The administration does not make public the number of doses it has in reserve and those it has secured for domestic needs in the production pipelines of vaccine manufacturers. The numbers are constantly changing, an administration official told VOA.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 82 million doses have been distributed across the country but not yet administered. Aid organizations allege that the United States has an even larger stockpile.
“They must now get these doses – and more of the 593 million excess doses the United States will have by the end of the year – through the door and into the arms of people in low- and middle-income countries,” Dr Carrie said. Teicher, program director for Doctors Without Borders USA, responding to Biden’s announcement of 500 million additional doses.
Compiled data by analysis firm Airfinity on the stock of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, the EU, the United Kingdom, Canada and China – the countries with the largest surpluses – show a surplus of nearly 670 million doses at the end of September. This projection included countries offering booster shots to people 12 years of age and older six months after their second dose.
Airfinity data also projects that 241 million doses of vaccines stored in major industrialized countries of the Group of Seven will expire by December without immediate redistribution.
Is the global vaccine shortage a question of production or distribution capacity?
Airfinity data shows that vaccine makers currently produce 1.5 billion doses per month. It forecasts a total global production of 12.2 billion doses for 2021, including 6.5 billion Western vaccines and 5.7 billion Chinese vaccines.
This would mean that the WHO-set target of 11.3 billion doses needed to immunize the world’s population could be reached in a matter of months, provided rich countries do not continue to write off their reserves to provide boosters and guard against new variants before low-income countries get their first shots.
“Rich countries have bought most of the global vaccine supply and have not acted quickly enough to create a global plan to get these vaccines delivered and distributed where they are needed in the world,” Sarah said. Swinehart, spokesperson for the ONE campaign, an organization formed to fight poverty and preventable diseases.
High-income countries have now administered nearly 100 doses per 100 people, while low-income countries have only administered 1.5 doses, according to the WHO.
If there is a high production capacity, why don’t the producers export them?
“If we are to be the vaccine arsenal, we actually need to export vaccines, not just donate them every now and then,” said Udayakumar of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. Regardless of doses given by the administration, US vaccine producers exported 161 million doses for sale, well below China (1.1 billion) and the EU (nearly 800 million).
Most exports still go to higher income countries, and some export restrictions are still in place. This week, the EU extended a mechanism to potentially limit vaccine exports until the end of 2021 due to the bloc’s need to obtain boosters.
India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, halted exports in April to focus on vaccinating its own population as infections rose. It will resume its exports in October.
WHO is also urging to intensify manufacturing through technology transfer. In June, he announced the establishment of the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer center, which will be established in South Africa.
The world health body also called for the waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS waiver, the suspension of intellectual property rights on vaccines at the World Trade Organization. , so that countries can access and produce vaccine “recipes” without fear of legal action.
The TRIPS waiver proposal, submitted by South Africa and India in October 2020, is supported by more than 100 countries, 100 Nobel laureates and prominent human rights groups, but it cannot move forward without the consensus of all WTO members. The EU, the UK and Switzerland oppose the waiver.
Did the United States not support the TRIPS waiver?
We haven’t seen the full weight of the U.S. diplomatic corps engaging on this topic, said Matthew Rose, director of U.S. policy and advocacy for the Health Global Access Project. “In several TRIPS Council meetings, the United States has been mostly silent in reaching consensus and bringing the Council into text-based negotiations,” he said.
In May, the United States said it broadly supported the TRIPS waiver proposal, but has since refused to support the proposal as it is, helping to prolong the negotiations.
Instead of leading, the Biden administration has largely remained on the sidelines of the TRIPS negotiations, said Abby Maxman, chief executive officer of Oxfam America, an organization working to end global poverty. “We cannot vaccinate 70% of the world with the same tools that have only vaccinated 1% of Africa so far.”
The office of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who is leading the WTO TRIPS waiver negotiations, did not respond to a request for comment.
The TRIPS waiver received little attention at the COVID-19 summit Biden called. With the exception of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, no other ruler of rich countries, including Biden, mentioned it in his remarks.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA the administration expects the TRIPS waiver negotiations to be a long process and have “never been the only basket which we are focusing on “.
Nike Ching of VOA contributed to this report.