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Washington Moves the Needle on Global Vaccinations

As sourcing countries battle Covid-19, the White House has pledged to donate even more vaccine doses.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would double its purchase of the Pfizer vaccine to 1 billion doses up from 500 million, with the commitment to share those shots with countries where vaccination rates lag wealthier nations. The action will aid in the administration’s stated goal to help vaccinate 70 percent of the global population within the next year. The U.S. has already supplied roughly 160 million vaccines to more than 100 countries—a larger donation than the rest of the world’s countries combined, the White House tweeted.

“To beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere,” President Biden said during a virtual Covid-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” he added.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) praised the president’s announcement, calling on the administration to prioritize hard-hit sourcing locales like Bangladesh and Vietnam, where confirmed Covid-19 cases topped 700,000, the nation’s government tweeted Tuesday.

“The only way to fully address the simultaneous health and economic crises from Covid-19—and address the devastation of the Delta variant—is to get vaccines in arms of the most vulnerable around the world,” AAFA senior vice president of policy Nate Herman said. “With so many hurting in our trading partner countries in Southeast Asia—particularly Vietnam and Bangladesh—we ask that the U.S. rush to their aid.”

Earlier this week, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health granted emergency approval to Cuba’s Abdala vaccine, with a plan to purchase 10 million doses. These shots will supplement a recent buy of 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Still, just 6.18 million people—6.6 percent of the country’s total population—are fully vaccinated, following a massive surge in infections that began this spring.

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Vietnam is also working quickly to test its own domestically-produced vaccine, Nanocovax, though the rollout of the solution has been delayed by Vietnam’s National Ethics Committee in Biomedical Research. On Sunday, the committee said it was sending vaccine documents to the Advisory Council for the Registration of Circulation of Drugs and Medicinal Ingredients for further review of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, despite urging by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to begin disseminating shots swiftly, according to the government health ministry.

In August, Prime Minister Chinh implored the World Health Organization’s Covax vaccine-sharing program to send vaccine shipments “in the fastest manner and with the largest volume possible.” Following the entreaty, Vice President Kamala Harris said the U.S. would donate 1 million doses to Vietnam.

As of earlier this month, the daily infection rate in Bangladesh hovered around 3,000. The country’s garment sector represents the third-largest exporter of apparel behind China and Vietnam, and employs 4.1 million workers—less than two percent of whom have received doses of any vaccine.

The AAFA and its members—who collectively employ 150 million workers worldwide—have been advocating for accelerated vaccine donations to partner countries in recent months, and in August called on the U.S. government to immediately augment vaccine distribution to countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

“We urge President Biden to double down on this promise to ensure the vaccines get to these countries right away—not a year from now, not six months from now—in order to make a real difference,” Herman said.