COVID-19 “knows no borders”: White House explains why U.S. is donating millions of vaccine doses to Africa

The White House on Wednesday once again explained why the United States is donating millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world, including roughly 20 million doses so far to at least 26 countries in Africa.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki answers questions from members of the press Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chandler West) 
Press Secretary Jen Psaki answers questions from members of the press Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chandler West)

“We know that the pandemic knows no borders,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing in Washington D.C. when asked whether President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was considering scaling up vaccine donation to Africa amid the rising Delta variant and lack of vaccines.

“We are going to continue to build on what we’ve already announced,” Psaki said, referring to a pledge President Biden announced at the G7 on June 10 that the United States would donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to the world this summer and next year. “So we plan to share tens of millions of doses across the summer months.”

“I’d also note that we’re also working to support vaccine manufacturing in Africa by providing financing to a South African business to bolster manufacturing capacity to produce more than 500 million doses,” added Psaki who also asserted that the Biden administration is “looking at a range of ways to provide supply, to be the arsenal of vaccines in the global community, including Africa.”

“And we will continue to expedite that as quickly as we can,” she said.

Despite those efforts, Africa is still in dire need of vaccines. So far, roughly 1.7 percent of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Africa while the Delta variant is spreading and killing thousands of people every week.

Failure to beat the virus everywhere, including in Africa, would likely prolong the coronavirus pandemic with new and more deadly strains emerging and spreading around the world, including in the United States.

Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power announced approximately $720 million in new funding from the American Rescue Plan to expand and intensify the fight against COVID-19 abroad, respond to humanitarian crises exacerbated by COVID-19, and support a global recovery while preparing for future pandemic threats.

In a statement, USAID said approximately $445 million of the total funding is for sub-Saharan Africa to support COVID-19 response and vaccine readiness and urgent humanitarian needs consistent with the African Union’s continental COVID response strategy.

“Of this amount for Africa, approximately $320 million will specifically help address urgent humanitarian needs in nearly 20 countries throughout Africa, helping partners deliver emergency food assistance, prevent the spread of COVID-19 through water, sanitation, and hygiene programs, and provide support for children and psychosocial care for survivors of gender-based violence as well as other protection challenges exacerbated by the pandemic,” read USAID statement.

The U.S. aid agency asserted that while in the United States, 160 million Americans are fully vaccinated, the virus continues to rage around the world and new variants pose a constant threat.

It said “ending the pandemic is vital to keeping Americans safe, saving lives, and rebuilding the U.S. and global economies.”

“Vaccines are a key tool in that effort, and the Biden Administration is committed to that effort,” USAID added.

 

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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