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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Biden joins Pfizer to ship millions of doses of vaccine to two countries devastated by Ebola outbreak

Former Vice President Joe Biden is helping Boeing ship millions of doses of vaccine from Connecticut’s vaccine manufacturing plant to the vaccine program in the Colombian, Kenyan and Malian health ministries, and will continue to provide donations to other governments and not-for-profit agencies.

“Every country has a responsibility to provide a dose of these lifesaving vaccines,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “I am happy to help the government of Colombia, Malawi, Kenya and others take on that responsibility.”

The decision by the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees health assistance programs, to bring up to 25 million doses of Pfizer’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine from plant in Enfield, Conn., to Liberia, Nigeria and Nepal was the brainchild of Dr. Lisa Schwartz, who manages Mr. Biden’s global health programs, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. After Pfizer announced in April that it was suspending production of the vaccine in Connecticut in the face of flagging global demand, HHS officials reevaluated global vaccine suppliers and found Pfizer, which could supply the 90 percent of the world’s supply.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who directs the Biden-administration program to support vaccines to combat HIV and other communicable diseases, met with Dr. Schwartz and Pfizer executives last month and agreed to extend the supply beyond its initial target of 50 million doses over five years.

“I’m really proud of what she did, and Dr. Schwartz has personally done what I couldn’t,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “As we continue to see the impacts of the Ebola epidemic, we cannot ignore the dangerous need for a solution to this global public health threat.”

The nonprofit “Save the Children” is donating up to $4 million to pay for, wrap and deliver the vaccine, said Sharon Maguire, vice president of immunization for the Save the Children Group.

There is no shortage of demand for vaccines against infectious diseases, Ms. Maguire said.

“In countries like Nigeria, vaccines are no longer affordable for children,” she said.

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