The United States is expanding Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing to donate more doses to countries that don’t have as much access to the life-saving syringes.
“We are now working to greatly expand the capacity so that we can donate hundreds and millions of doses to low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, medical advisor to President Joe Biden, in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Thursday.
Scientists around the world, including World Health Organization officials, have condemned rich nations for giving booster vaccinations to fully vaccinated people while millions in other countries are unable to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s Emergency Health Program, said wealthy nations who choose to give booster doses are handing out “extra life jackets” to those who already have one while drowning other people.
Fauci said the U.S. has given more than 120 million doses to 80 countries and donated $ 4 billion in resources to the vaccine exchange initiative coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and the WHO.
“We do both,” said Fauci about the distribution of booster vaccinations and the aid for other countries. “We are very sensitive to the needs of developing countries for vaccine doses, but we believe we can do both.”
Concerns about the Delta variant continue to preoccupy many Americans as health systems in states with high infection rates struggle to keep pace with demand for hospital beds. A further acceleration of cases in the US could be avoided if more people were vaccinated, Fauci said.
“We can do a lot about it,” said Fauci, noting that 90 million people in the US are eligible for vaccines but still haven’t been vaccinated. “We want to vaccinate the unvaccinated as much as possible.”
He said it was difficult to say when the current delta eruption will peak.
“It’s very difficult to predict. We saw in the UK that after several weeks of high acceleration, things had turned around,” said Fauci.
Once delta infections slow down, Covid could become an endemic disease that remains at low levels in the population, like the flu, although Covid is much more deadly. Fauci said he doubts Covid – unlike the flu, which requires annual vaccinations – needs recurring boosters to maintain a high level of protection.
“I don’t think that will be the case. I think this third shot will take us far,” said Fauci.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the COVAX vaccine exchange initiative is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and the WHO.