The White House has reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to provide 500 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to about 100 countries over the next year, a pact that President Biden plans to announce as early as Thursday, according to multiple people familiar with the plan.
Under intense pressure to do more to address the global vaccine shortage and the disparities in vaccination between rich and poor nations, the president hinted at the plan Wednesday morning, when he was asked if he had a vaccination strategy for the world.
“I have one, and I’ll be announcing it,” Mr. Biden said, shortly before he boarded Air Force One for his first trip abroad as president He was headed first to Cornwall, England, to meet with leaders of the Group of 7 nations.
People familiar with the deal said the United States will pay for the doses at a “not-for-profit” price. The first 200 million doses would be distributed this year, and 300 million would be distributed by the middle of next year, they said. Albert Bourla, chief executive of Pfizer, is expected to appear with the president when Mr. Biden makes his announcement.
The United States has already contracted to buy 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two shots. The new agreement is separate from those contracts, according to one person familiar with it, bringing to 800 million the total number of doses the United States has agreed to purchase from the companies thus far.
The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeffrey D. Zients, whom Mr. Biden has put in charge of global vaccination, said in a statement on Wednesday that the president would use the “momentum” of the U.S. inoculation campaign “to rally the world’s democracies around solving this crisis globally, with America leading the way to create the arsenal of vaccines that will be critical in our global fight against Covid-19.”
The 500 million doses, all of which will be produced in the United States, still fall far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization estimates are needed to vaccinate the world, but significantly exceed what the United States has committed to share so far. Other nations have been pleading with the United States to give up some of its abundant vaccine supplies.
Last week, Mr. Biden said that the United States would distribute 25 million doses this month to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America; South and Southeast Asia; Africa; and the Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank.
Those doses are the first of 80 million that Mr. Biden pledged to send abroad by the end of June; three quarters of them will be distributed by the international vaccine effort known as Covax. The rest will go toward addressing pressing and urgent crises in places like India and the West Bank and Gaza, administration officials have said.
But activists have insisted that the effort is not nearly enough. They are calling on the Biden administration and leaders of other developed nations to go beyond sharing surplus doses by laying out a plan to ramp up manufacturing overseas, and pushing for vaccine makers to transfer their technology to other nations.
Mr. Biden has already committed to supporting a waiver of an international intellectual property agreement, which would require vaccine makers to share their technology. But European leaders are still blocking the proposed waiver, and pharmaceutical companies are strongly opposed to it. The World Trade Organization’s Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights is meeting this week to consider the waiver.
“The truth is that world leaders have been kicking the can down the road for months — to the point where they have run out of road,” Edwin Ikhouria, executive director for Africa at the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit aimed at eradicating global poverty, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This is the moment to do whatever it takes to beat the virus everywhere,” he said, “starting by immediately sharing their surplus doses, fully funding the global initiatives set up to distribute Covid vaccines,” and coming up with an economically viable strategy to distribute them to countries in need.
Mr. Biden’s announcement comes after the United States has at least partly vaccinated 52 percent of its population. But as the pace of vaccination has dropped sharply since mid-April, the Biden administration has pursued a strategy of greater accessibility and incentives to reach Americans who have not yet gotten shots.
In spite of those efforts, there are unused vaccine doses that could go to waste. Once thawed, doses have a limited shelf life and millions could begin expiring within two weeks, according to federal officials.
Providing equitable access to vaccines has become one of the most intractable challenges to reining in the pandemic. Wealthier nations and private entities have pledged tens of millions of vaccine doses and billions of dollars to shore up global supplies, but the disparity in vaccine allocations so far has been stark.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, warned earlier this week that the world was facing a “two-track pandemic,” in which countries where vaccines are scarce will struggle with virus cases even as better-supplied nations return to normal.
Those lower-income countries will be largely dependent on wealthier ones until vaccines can be distributed and produced on a more equitable basis, he said.