WASHINGTON -- US President Joe Biden addressed a COVID-19 summit of world leaders Wednesday (September 22) with a promise to donate a "historic" extra 500 million vaccine doses to countries struggling to overcome the pandemic.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis," Biden said. "America will become the arsenal for vaccines as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II."
The pledge from Biden at the summit, held virtually from the White House, brings the total US commitment of donated vaccine doses to 1.1 billion -- more than the rest of the world combined.
"We've already shipped 160 million of these doses to 100 countries," Biden said. "For every one shot we've administered to date in America, we've now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world."
The new tranche of half a billion vaccines will be from Pfizer and will go to low-income and middle-income countries.
Biden is also challenging world leaders to vaccinate 70% of every country by September 2022, the White House said in a statement.
"We need other high income countries to deliver on their own ambitions," he said in his opening remarks. "We're not going to solve this crisis with half measures."
Biden stressed that the surge of vaccines must only be donated, with no "political" strings attached -- a veiled dig at China in particular.
China kicked off its vaccine diplomacy campaign last year, with President Xi Jinping pledging to provide a shot that could be easily stored and transported to millions of recipients around the world, particularly to poor countries.
He called it a "global public good", a phrase repeated by other party leaders.
But many countries are sceptical of China's apparent goodwill and see it as no more than Beijing's attempt to ultimately have a claim on their territory and natural resources.
Some 4.7 million people worldwide have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.