By Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States has donated over 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries so far, the White House said on Tuesday, as the world grapples with the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus.
President Joe Biden will announce the donation tally later on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement, calling the donations “a major milestone” in the pandemic fight.
Biden, who is scheduled to deliver remarks on efforts to combat the novel coronavirus at 3:45 p.m. ET (1945 GMT), had earlier pledged to donate at least 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide.
“Today’s announcement is a fulfillment of his promise and a significant downpayment on hundreds of millions of more doses that the U.S. will deliver in the coming weeks,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the majority of doses were shared via COVAX, an international program aimed at helping developing countries access COVID-19 vaccines.
In late August, the United States will also start shipping 500 million doses of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s vaccine to 100 lower-income countries, the statement said.
Advocates believe the United States could be sharing even more.
“We could give away lots of what we have and still be fine,” said Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.
Helping the rest of the world would benefit the United States in its domestic fight as well, he added.
“If we don’t control it everywhere, we’re not gong to control it anywhere,” Gonsalves said.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters on Monday that, as of Saturday, there were about 72,000 new cases per day of COVID-19 in the United States, a 44% increase over the previous week and higher than the peak in the summer of 2020.
The race to inoculate the global population has taken on a new urgency as the more easily transmitted Delta variant strengthens its hold in the United States and abroad, leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths, the vast majority among the unvaccinated.
COVAX, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, seeks to secure 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for countries in need by the year’s end.
In June, a WHO official said many nations did not have enough doses to continue vaccination efforts or had simply run out.
The White House on Tuesday said it would work with COVAX and other regional partners to ensure the donated vaccines were equitably delivered.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)