The White House announced Tuesday that the United States has donated and shipped more than 110 million COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries abroad as part of President Joe Biden's pledge that the U.S. will be the "arsenal of vaccines" for the world.
"Today’s announcement is a fulfillment of his promise and a significant down payment on hundreds of millions of more doses that the U.S. will deliver in the coming weeks," the White House said in a statement.
According to the United Nations, this is more than the donations of all other countries combined, the White House said, making the U.S. the world leader in vaccine donations.
President Biden touted this milestone in remarks Tuesday, saying the fight against COVID-19 does not end at America's borders.
"The virus knows no boundaries. You can't build a wall high enough to keep it out. There is no ocean wide enough to keep us safe from COVID-19," Biden said, later adding: "In times of trouble, Americans reach out to offer a helping hand. That is who we are."
The announcement comes amid a rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta strain of the virus, which led U.S. public health officials last week to recommend that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in public indoor settings.
In all, the U.S. has shipped 111,701,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to 65 countries, from Afghanistan (3.3 million) to Zambia (302,000), according to the White House.
The White House said in a statement Tuesday that U.S. at the end of August will begin shipping 500,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine that it has pledged to 100 low-income countries by June 2022.
The donated doses came from U.S. surplus vaccine stock as the pace of domestic vaccinations slowed amid widespread vaccine hesitancy in the country. Roughly 90 million eligible Americans aged 12 and over have yet to receive one dose of vaccine.
Biden had pledged to ship more than 80 million doses overseas by the end of June, but had only been able to share a fraction of that due to logistical and regulatory hurdles in recipient countries.
The pace of shipments picked up significantly through July.
Under Biden’s sharing plan, about 75% of U.S. doses are shared through the global vaccine program COVAX, which aims to help lower- and middle-income nations, with the balance being sent to U.S. partners and allies. But while notable, the 110 million doses the U.S. has donated largely through COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed worldwide.
"We will continue to work with COVAX, regional partners such as the African Union and CARICOM, and other partners to ensure these vaccines are delivered in a way that is equitable and follows the science and public health data," the White House said in a statement. "This is a unique moment in history, and it requires American leadership, science and ingenuity, perseverance, and we are demonstrating that we can deliver results for people around the world."
The White House insists that nothing is being sought in return for the shots, contrasting its approach to Russia and China, which it alleges have used access to their domestically produced vaccines as a tool of geopolitical leverage.
"These vaccine donations from America are free," Biden emphasized on Tueseday. "We are not selling them. There are no demands, no conditions, no coercion, no favoritism, no strings. We are doing this to save lives and end the pandemic. That is it."