The Biden administration will soon begin donating child doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to poorer countries for the first time, although officials warn some may not reach their intended recipients due to a struggle in Congress over pandemic funding.
The donation of more than 100 million doses for five to 11-year-olds, due to be announced on Tuesday, is part of the government’s pledge to distribute a total of 1.2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.
But Biden administration officials say a row in Congress over billions of dollars worth of additional Covid funds could mean the jabs aren’t getting where they’re needed. They said more resources are needed for logistical support and public education campaigns to ensure adoption is high.
“The US pioneered the global vaccine effort, and now we want to make sure children in low- and middle-income countries have access to the same protections that children in the United States have,” said Jeff Zients, the outgoing head of Das White House Covid Response Team said.
“We need Congress to pass additional appropriations to make sure we get all these gunshots,” he added. “The countries still need support.”
Officials said more than 20 countries have asked for donations of childhood vaccines, which are given in lower doses than adult vaccines. These countries are mostly located in South and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and Pakistan, although a final list of recipients has not yet been determined. The doses will be supplied through global vaccine alliance Covax as part of an existing deal with Pfizer to donate 1 billion doses of its vaccine worldwide.
The Biden administration came under fire earlier in the pandemic for not making more of its vaccine supply available to poorer countries. In recent months, it has pledged to give away 1.2 billion cans.
The US Senate is close to agreeing an additional $10 billion to help fight the pandemic. But the deal slashed $5 billion earmarked for the global immunization campaign after Democrats were unable to meet a Republican demand that each item be paid for by a different revenue-raising measure.
Officials say these funds are especially important, especially in poorer countries, because of the complicated logistics of getting cans where they need to go.
covax said in January it couldn’t accept new cans because it had run out of money to cover costs for things like storage, shipping, and insurance. US officials say they want to help fund massive public education campaigns in countries where vaccine reluctance is high.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday, “If we’re going to continue to feed the world, we need money.”
https://www.ft.com/content/3e5f9359-67a5-4f24-971e-51761119899b US donates more than 100 million Covid doses for children to poorer countries