The European Union will donate 200 million more COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during her annual State of the European Union speech.
Von der Leyen said that deliveries would be made by the middle of 2022 and that they would come on top of the 250 million vaccine doses already committed by the bloc for donation to lower and middle-income countries by the end of the year.
“Our first and most urgent priority is to speed up global vaccination,” she said in her speech. She called the discrepancy in vaccination between the developed and developing world “one of the great geopolitical issues.”
Brussels has come under fire for only having shipped a small percentage of the total doses it has committed so far.
“With less than 1 percent of global doses administered in low-income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious,” the Commission president said.
The EU initially committed 200 million doses for the end of the year, but countries pledged more to reach nearly 250 million. The latest commitment brings the total promised by the EU to around 450 million doses.
The pledge comes even as Brussels is under fire for only having delivered only a small portion of the total doses it has committed. An EU official told POLITICO that so far, the bloc has only shipped 20 million doses, or 8 percent of the 250 million doses EU countries pledged for the end of the year.
On Tuesday, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to fulfill their dose sharing pledges “immediately,” pointing to the fact that just two percent of the total vaccine doses administered worldwide have been rolled out in Africa.
Vaccine production has steadily increased throughout the year. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, a global pharma lobby, estimates that monthly production alone has reached 1.5 billion of doses. According to forecasting conducted by analytics company Airfinity, countries in the developed world, including the U.S. and Europe, could have as many as 1.2 billion unneeded vaccine doses by the end of the year, while much of the rest of the world is lagging behind.
This article was updated. Ashleigh Furlong contributed reporting.
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