Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on President’s Historic COVID-19 Vaccine Announcement

The White House

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us for this background briefing. In today’s background briefing, we will cover the United States’ historic vaccine donation that President Biden will announce today. We will cover a preview of the President’s bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And last but not least, we’ll also cover a preview of the G7 Summit and economic deliverables coming out of the G7.

This call will be on background, attributable to “senior administration officials.” Additionally, (inaudible) invitation, various sections of these calls are under different embargo times, and we will make those sections very clear.

The portion of the call covering COVID-19 and the vaccine announcement, as well as the preview of the UK bilat, will be embargoed until this call concludes.

The G7 preview and the section on economic deliverables from the G7 will be embargoed until Friday, June 11th, 7:00 a.m. British Summer Time.

We’ll have time for a brief Q&A at the conclusion of each section.

Not for reporting or attribution, but just for your knowledge, on today’s call, we have joining us [senior administration officials].

Before we get started, I wanted to share a quick update from the First Lady’s office for you all. In addition to the G7 program of events and meetings, the First Lady will have an independent schedule.

Today, she will meet separately with Mrs. Carrie Johnson. Friday, she will participate in the G7 Summit welcoming events; an additional scheduling update is expected for this day. On Saturday, she will participate in a program for spouses of G7 leaders and will meet with members of Bude Surf Veterans, a local volunteer group that assists UK military veterans with physical or mental health injuries through surfing. And on Sunday, before she departs, she will meet with UK veterans who participated in Walk of America.

The First Lady’s Communications Director, Elizabeth Alexander, and her Press Secretary, Michael LaRosa, are traveling throughout this trip. Feel free to reach out to them with any questions.

With that, we’ll get started on the COVID-19 section, and I will pass it over to [senior administration official] to kick us off.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, well, good morning, everyone, or good afternoon. And also, thanks for joining us.

Today, I want to discuss the historic announcement the President will make in his remarks later today regarding our efforts to help vaccinate the world against COVID-19.

First, let’s talk about why the U.S. is so well-positioned to lead the global COVID-19 response efforts. And that, of course, is the success of the President’s whole-of-government, wartime effort to respond to the pandemic at home.

In just over four months, we’ve vaccinated 64 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot, and, importantly, fully vaccinated 53 percent of adult Americans. Already, 13 states have 70 percent of adults with at least one shot.

As a result, in communities and states across the United States, the pandemic is in retreat. In fact, since President Biden took office, cases are down over 90 percent and deaths are down over 85 percent.

So, our successful vaccination program isn’t just saving tens of thousands of lives, it’s helping our economy rebound strongly and it’s letting tens of millions of Americans get back to living their lives.

As the days get brighter and brighter at home, we’re increasingly focused on driving progress to help end the pandemic around the globe.

First, it’s the right thing to do. The U.S. has tragically lost more people to COVID-19 than any other country in the world: almost 600,000 deaths. Americans have experienced the tragic human cost of this virus, and we want to do everything we can to prevent more tragic loss of life around the globe.

Second, it’s in our own national interest to end this pandemic everywhere. COVID-19 knows no borders. And as long as this virus has a hold somewhere in the world, Americans are at risk.

To be clear, as we have learned in the U.S., COVID-19 threatens more than our health; it also threatens economic opportunity and growth. That’s why the President has committed that the U.S. will be the arsenal of vaccines in our global fight against COVID-19.

Over the past four and a half months or so, as we have mobilized a whole-of-government effort to vaccinate America, including getting at least one shot to over 170 million Americans and securing enough vaccine supply for all Americans, we have also been mobilizing an effort to help vaccinate the world.

Under President Biden’s leadership, the U.S. has already contributed more to COVAX than any other country. We’ve worked with Japan, India, and Australia to support manufacturing efforts, and shared 4 million AstraZeneca doses with Canada and Mexico.

Recently, the President also committed to sharing 80 million doses with the world. Eighty million doses represents 13 percent of the total vaccines produced in the U.S. by the end of this month. We are working quickly and expeditiously to facilitate safe and secure delivery of these doses, and the initial doses started shipping last week.

Today, we are taking another major step forward — a step that will supercharge the global fight against this pandemic and save millions of lives around the world.

This evening, in the UK, the President will announce that the United States will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine and donate them to 100 of the lowest [low]-income countries in the world.

To repeat, the U.S. is taking this historic step of purchasing half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccine and donating them to countries that need them the most, including the 92 Advance Market Commitment countries — these are the lowest [low]-income countries and economies in the world — and all members of the African Union member states.

This will be, clearly, the largest purchase and donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country by far, and it’s an unprecedented step to respond to an unprecedented pandemic.

Importantly, this is a vaccine that is proven to be extremely effective against COVID-19 and every known variant of this virus. And these doses will jumpstart vaccination efforts in some of the most hard-hit and underserved populations in the world, bringing hope to every corner of the world and saving millions of lives.

[Senior administration official] will explain more about how we will share these doses, but I want to make a few points on timeline. We expect to start shipping these Pfizer doses in August, with 200 million doses to be delivered this year, and the remaining 300 million to be delivered across the first half of 2022.

And as with all the vaccines we’ve committed to sharing, these vaccines will be delivered to countries as quickly and expeditiously as possible as soon as they become available.

Importantly, these Pfizer vaccines are the product of American ingenuity and innovation. They will be produced through the power of American manufacturing in places like Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — employing thousands of workers. American workers who produced vaccines to save American lives are going to produce those same vaccines to save the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world.

This is a testament to the American people and American leadership. We’re a nation full of people who step up and do their part. That’s what we’ve been doing at home and will continue to do so, vaccinating more and more Americans in the weeks and months to come.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much. With that, I’m going to pass it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody. Just following on [senior administration official]’s laydown, I want to make clear that not only is the United States taking this huge step to provide 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to low-income countries around the world. We’re also using this announcement today to leverage and mobilize larger commitments from the world’s democracies, from the G7 and partner countries.

And there will be a G7 COVID-related multilateral announcement coming later on vaccines, but on more than just vaccines — on a comprehensive roadmap to end the pandemic, with contributions from G7 members to every element of that roadmap.

So stay tuned for that, because over the course of this weekend at the G7 Summit, American leadership and what [senior administration official] described as “supercharging the effort” to provide vaccines around the world will also help catalyze, mobilize, and translate into a collective effort by the world’s democracies to beat COVID-19 once and for all.

In terms of this announcement that we’ve laid out today: It is a monumental commitment by the American people to help people around the world. And we want to really underscore that this is fundamentally about the singular overarching objective of saving lives, improving livelihoods, and beating a pandemic that has ravaged the world and has spared no quarter from countries on every continent.

And in this regard, the United States is not seeking favors in exchange for these doses. We’re not making demands in order for countries to get these doses. We are not imposing conditions — political or economic, or otherwise — on countries receiving these doses. We are going to be guided by the science and the public health experts in allocating them to the places where they can make the most difference, and in allocating them in a broad-based way so that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Africa, in Asia, and in parts of Oceania can benefit from these Pfizer doses.

The other thing to say is that we know that low-income countries would not have an ability to compete with big economies on the vaccine marketplace and that these low-income countries have not had access to groundbreaking vaccines like this mRNA vaccine. And so part of what we’re trying to do here is make sure that we are taking — on the basis of American generosity and American innovation and know-how — what we have available and getting to those countries who otherwise could not secure it.

And in addition to that, as [senior administration official] pointed out, I think it bears underscoring: Many of these low-income countries to whom we will be providing these doses — donating these doses — are subject to variants of the disease that have made other vaccines somewhat less effective.

And what has made us focus on the Pfizer vaccine for this significant announcement is that, as [senior administration official] said, it has proven highly effective against every known variant of COVID-19.

Just two other points before I turn it over for questions. The first is that we have to connect the doses to shots in arms, just as we have done domestically. And so the United States has, through the American Rescue Plan, allocated a significant amount of money for every step along the chain of vaccination and of building the resilience of public health systems. And this monumental commitment of half a billion Pfizer doses will fit into that chain.

And then, secondly, I just want to reinforce what [senior administration official] said: What this really comes down to at the end of the day is, this is the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, and it is tangible proof that it is going to be the world’s democracies who ultimately deliver when it comes to beating the COVID-19 pandemic.

So let me stop there and turn it back over to the moderator.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much. So, before we move on to some other sections, we have time for some brief Q&A on the vaccines announcement. So if you have a question, please use the “raise hand” function on the Zoom app, and we’ll call on you before we move on to other sections.

All right, first, we’ll go to Michael Shear from the New York Times.

Q Hey, guys, thanks for calling on me. I have two questions. One is, is there an estimate of how much this is costing the United States to buy the 500 million doses, and the distribution costs, et cetera, that will go along with that?

And, second, to [senior administration official]’s point about the doses fitting into a broader process of actually getting them into the arms — I mean, the United States discovered that doses alone weren’t enough. And so, I wonder, is there — as the United States chooses where to distribute — which countries to distribute them to, is there going to be some sort of conditionality on whether or not a country actually has a plan or actually has an infrastructure that can distribute them in a way that is effective? Or is the United States — is part of the United States’ effort going to be to try to help build that structure up so that the doses don’t, you know, languish without some sort of distribution ability to kind of get them into people’s arms? So, thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. This is [senior administration official]. Can you hear me?

Q Yes, I can.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry, I dropped off before. I’ll (inaudible) your question and then I’ll hand it to [senior administration official].

We are entering into the contracting process, so that will determine the final details of the agreement. We’ve agreed on a not-for-profit price, and we’ll assure — ensure the contract — the contracting officers will ensure the contract reflects that.

The contract can be finalized over the coming weeks, and we’ll make the terms of the contract public. You know, the U.S. plans to work with COVAX to utilize the second $2 billion in funding that we committed to the fight against the global pandemic. And we expect, on top of that — this announcement of 500 million doses will cost about 1.5 billion dollars more, and that will be paid for by the already-appropriated funds from the American Rescue Plan.

So, back over to [senior administration official] for your question about shots in arms.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, as I mentioned at the outset, what you will see coming out of the G7 is a comprehensive roadmap to end the pandemic that focuses not just on securing the necessary supply of vaccines — supply and production of vaccines, but also on getting those vaccines into arms.

And the U.S. has already allocated a substantial sum of money through the American Rescue Plan for this purpose. We have CDC, USAID, and contributions through COVAX — some of our initial contributions through COVAX — are going towards this purpose.

And we will be working both through our own public health and international assistance agencies and through multilateral organizations like UNICEF, and regional organizations like the Pan American Health Organization, to ensure that as we’re allocating these doses to low-income countries, they also have the capacity to be able to deliver them and get them into arms.

I would not characterize this as a kind of conditionality where we go to a country and say, “You only get doses if you can do X, Y, and Z” and then, sort of, leave them to it. I would describe it more as a partnership where, as we allocate these doses across the 500 — these 500 million doses across the 100 low-income countries, we will work out with each of them a game plan to ensure that those countries that don’t yet have the capacity to get them from the plane and into the arms of their citizens, that they get the necessary technical assistance, capacity, personnel, cold chain, et cetera, to be able to do this.

We feel that there is a lot of experience from previous vaccination campaigns that will allow us to surge capacity to hard-hit areas quite quickly, to build up the ability of health systems to do this, and to build on what is already preexisting in certain parts of the world is a fairly strong and robust health system infrastructure for vaccination.

So we are very mindful of the fact that this has to be part of a multifaceted effort to end the pandemic. We have resources for that purpose, we have partners for that purpose, and we will be working with the other G7 countries as well to ensure that this is an integrated strategy.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Next, we’ll go to Josh Wingrove from Bloomberg.

Q Thank you for doing this. You cut out when you were talking about the cost of this, and so I just wanted to be clear: Did you say one and a half or five and a half billion (inaudible)? Can you recap your answer, please, on the cost of these doses, and perhaps also say when you expect the contract will be finalized?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. So, we are (inaudible) — (technical difficulties).

This is [senior administration official]. I heard Josh for the first part and not the second part. Can you guys hear me okay?

MODERATOR: Yes, we can hear you now. You were cutting out a little bit, but now this is a lot crisper.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. So, let me answer the first part. I don’t know — I don’t know — I didn’t hear the second. But, you know, we’re entering into the contracting process, so the contracting officers will determine the final details of the agreement. You know, the agreement is for a purchase at the not-for-profit price, and we’ll ensure the contract will reflect that.

The contract will be finalized over the coming weeks. Delivery starts in August, of doses, and we’ll make the terms of the contract public at the right point.

The U.S. plans to work with COVAX to utilize the second $2 billion in funding of the $4 billion that we committed to the fight against the pandemic. In addition to that, we expect the announcement to cost about $1.5 billion more, so a total of $3.5 [billion], Josh. And that will be paid for by already-appropriated funds from the American Rescue Plan.

The one thing that I got cut off on that I know a lot of people have questions on — let me spend 30 seconds on — is that today’s announcement of the 500 million doses to the countries most in need, plus the 80 million doses the President announced in May — total 580. So there are — those are separate announcements. So the total is 580 million doses to donate to other countries.

And then, the U.S. will continue to share the additional doses across the summer months, in addition to that 580 million figure. And we will continue to take additional actions to lead the world’s efforts to end this global pandemic.

So, a major milestone today, but I wanted to put it in the context of the work that’s been done already to share doses and that there’s more to come.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much.

12:32 P.M. BST

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