June 10 (UPI) — President Joe Biden announced Thursday the United States will purchase and send half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries amid a global effort to halt the spread of the virus.
He made the announcement after meeting with British Prime Minister ahead of Friday’s G7 Summit in Britain.
“This is a monumental commitment by the American people,” Biden said. “We’re a nation full of people who step up in times of need to help our fellow human beings, both at home and abroad. We’re not perfect, but we step up.”
He said the U.S. government will purchase the 500,000 doses from Pfizer, with the first vials to be shipped out in August and about 200,000 delivered by the end of 2021.
“American workers will now produce vaccines that save lives of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean — people they will never meet and have never met,” Biden said. “Places they’ve never visited and probably won’t have an opportunity to.
“But lives saved all the same, thanks to American leadership, American workers, hard work and values.”
Doctors Without Borders said the number of vaccine doses can inoculate some 250 million worldwide through the U.N.’s COVAX facility that seeks equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines but the United States’ plan for 200 million doses to be donated this year with the 300 million during the first half of 2022 lacks the urgency of the moment.
“As new waves of the disease and variants of the coronavirus take hold. this global vaccine timeline by the U.S. government is not urgent enough,” said Dr. Carrie Teicher, director of programs at Doctors Without Borders. “Hundreds of millions of people don’t have a year to wait for these vaccines.”
Earlier Thursday, Biden and Johnson signed a new Atlantic Charter.
The document, meant to highlight the country’s cooperation against emerging threats, is modeled after the original Atlantic Charter signed in 1941.
The update addresses commitments to NATO, tackling the coronavirus pandemic and responding to climate change.
“Our revitalized Atlantic Charter, building on the commitments and aspirations set out 80 years ago, affirms our ongoing commitment to sustaining our enduring values and defending them against new and old challenges,” the charter says.
Biden and Johnson also participated in a bilateral meeting during the visit at Cornwall.
The meeting, at the start of Biden’s first overseas trip as president, sought “to affirm the enduring strength of the special relationship between the United States and [Britain],” the White House said in a statement.
There have been some issues Biden and Johnson have not seen eye-to-eye on. For example, Biden was opposed to Brexit while Johnson fully embraced and pushed for Britain to leave the European Union.
Biden has also shown concern about renewed sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland in light of the Brexit.
“President Biden has been crystal clear about his rock-solid belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday, according to The New York Times.
Biden and Johnson will also attend the Group of Seven summit from Friday-Sunday in Cornwall in southwest England, along with leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the European Union. Australia, India and South Korea have also been invited as guests.
Among the issues expected to be discussed: recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and fair trade.
Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, are scheduled to meet Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday.
Next week, he travels to Belgium and Switzerland, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin among others.