WASHINGTON- The United States has shipped 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in need as part of its earlier pledge to donate more than 1.1 billion doses to low-income countries, a White House spokesman said on Twitter, confirming a CNN report.
The latest batch includes 3.2 million doses of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech's vaccine to Bangladesh and 4.7 million doses to Pakistan, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing a White House official.
The Biden administration had previously vowed to donate a second tranche of 500 million doses to the COVAX global vaccine sharing program, raising its total pledge to more than 1.1 billion COVID vaccine doses, with the latest batch expected to start shipping this month. Global health experts have said at least 5 billion to 6 billion doses are needed by poorer countries to help protect them against the novel coronavirus amid the ongoing pandemic.
Overall, the COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, has delivered more than a billion doses to 144 countries and aims to achieve 70% COVID-19 immunization coverage by mid-2022.
Health experts have criticized rich countries for not doing enough, singling out the United States in particular for pushing booster shots for fully vaccinated Americans while much of the world's population still lacks access to vaccines.
Experts and leaders from developing nations have also warned that vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations could lead to new coronavirus variants. "Four hundred million doses is more than every country, and is on top of expanding manufacturing, working with companies to get their vaccines out to the most vulnerable, and getting shots in arms," White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted in response to the CNN report.
"The work is far from over, and the US will continue to lead this effort."
The White House COVID Response Team is scheduled to hold a news briefing at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT), and is expected to announce its updated shipments, CNN said.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +1-202-898-8300;))