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US marks 200 million Covid-19 shots shared with world

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 21/10/2021 Agencies in Washington
The donated doses include more than 120 million in surplus from the US stockpile of shots. File photo: AFP © AFP The donated doses include more than 120 million in surplus from the US stockpile of shots. File photo: AFP

The United States on Thursday donated its 200 millionth Covid-19 shot to help vaccinate the rest of the world, the White House announced. The Biden administration aims to lead a global vaccination campaign even as it rolls out boosters for domestic use, which critics say diverts doses from those who are in greater need around the world.

The donated doses include more than 120 million in surplus from the US stockpile of shots, as well as the initial deliveries of the 1 billion doses the Biden administration has purchased from Pfizer for overseas donation by September 2022. More than 100 countries and territories have received the American doses, and the US remains the largest vaccine donor in the world.

"These 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have helped bring health and hope to millions of people, but our work is far from over," US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement. "To end the pandemic, and prevent the emergence of new variants, as well as future outbreaks within our nation's borders, we must continue to do our part to help vaccinate the world."

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China is also supplying jabs to other countries. In a virtual meeting with leaders of the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa - last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that China would donate 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to developing countries by the end of this year.

China is the largest vaccine supplier to the developing world. By October 18, it had sold 1.3 billion doses, according to the Bridge Consulting tracker of Chinese vaccine distribution. But the number of donations remains small in proportion to its sales: only an estimated 81 million doses were donated either bilaterally or to the Covax Facility, according to Bridge Consulting.

US-China vaccine diplomacy heats up but can donations sway allegiances?

While aid groups have praised the US for leading the world in vaccine donations, they have criticised the US for approving booster doses for use in the country while many people in lower-income nations have no protection at all.

The Food and Drug Administration approved booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines Wednesday, following last month's authorisation of a third dose of the Pfizer shot.

"The reality is, the more wealthy countries use booster shots, the further we will be from ending the pandemic," said Tom Hart, acting CEO of the One Campaign. "While some argue that we can both administer boosters and vaccinate the world, the simple fact is that boosters divert supply from an urgent area of need - administering first shots around the world."

While half the planet has been vaccinated, there are massive geographic and wealth disparities. The majority of global shots have been administered in high- and moderate-income countries.

Associated Press and SCMP reporter

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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