The United States will share the COVID-19 vaccine with the rest of the world if it has a surplus, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. "If we have a surplus, we are going to share it with the rest of the world. We have already decided we are going to work with the outfit COVAX. We've committed USD 4 billion to help get the funding for more vaccines around the world," he told reporters at the White House.
"This is not something that can be stopped by a fence, no matter how high you build a fence or a wall. So we're not going to be ultimately safe until the world is safe," Biden said.
"So we are going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first but we are then going to try to help the rest of the world," Biden said in response to a question.
Earlier, the president lauded the "historic, nearly unprecedented collaboration" between Johnson and Johnson and Merck as he underscored the move to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The CEOs -- Alex Gorsky from Johnson and Johnson and Kenneth Frazier from Merck -- praised him and thanked him in their brief comments.
"Today, we're seeing two health companies, competitors, each with over 130 years of experience coming together to help write a more hopeful chapter in our battle against COVID-19. I just had an opportunity to meet with both of these CEOs and with their senior operating officers. And to hear about the work they're doing together to produce a vaccine, substitute and accelerate what they call to take it to full finish," he said.
It's not just Johnson and Johnson and Merck, Pfizer and Moderna also work closely with the administration to help speed up the delivery of millions more doses, he said.
"The result is that we're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May. Months earlier than anyone expected. And today I'm directing Jeff and my HHS Team to produce another 100 million doses and purchase another 100 million dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine," he said.
Biden said that on Thursday he would deliver a primetime address to the American people and talk about what the country has been through as a nation this past year. "More importantly, I'm going to talk about what comes next. I am going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people," he said.
"There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel over the past year. We cannot let our guard down now or assume the victory is inevitable. Together, we are going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future," Biden said.
In his brief remarks, Gorsky said that the American pharma industry realised in the early days of the pandemic that vaccine development -- it wasn't a race against each other as competitors. "It's really a race against time to defeat a common enemy," he said.
"Today we're at war with COVID-19 and public-private partnerships like the historic one that we're celebrating today, well they're a major reason that last week I was privileged enough to witness some of the very first residents in our home state of New Jersey receiving doses of our vaccines just 13 months after we started the development process," Gorsky said.
Frazier said that COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of global community and added it has created profound challenges and hardships, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities.
"It has also shone a light on the resilience of our first responders, scientists, healthcare workers, and those providing essential community services: the real heroes of this challenging moment," he said.
"At Merck, we are proud to contribute to the global response to the pandemic. Through this collaboration with our colleagues at Johnson and Johnson and the Biden administration, we will work together to enable more timely delivery of much needed medicines and vaccines for the pandemic," he said.