WASHINGTON (CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace praised President Joe Biden June 23 for his commitment to provide 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.

This was recently matched by the G-7 nations, bringing the total of vaccines to 1 billion.

“As world leaders work together to help bring an end to this pandemic, we are grateful for President Biden’s leadership to aid the poor and vulnerable around the world who remain most at-risk,” said Archbishop JosĂ© H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, committee chairman.

“This gesture of global solidarity is timely, responding to those regions with the greatest need, particularly in Africa and South Asia,” they said in a joint statement.

The United States plans to purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine that it will then donate to countries in need around the world. The Washington Post reported recently that the first 200 million doses will be sent out this year, with 300 million more shared in the first half of next year.

COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share COVID-19 doses across the globe, will distribute the doses to low- and middle-income countries.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy quoted Pope Francis from his 2021 Easter message: “Vaccines are an essential tool in this (COVID-19) fight. I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.”

They also encouraged the Biden administration to partner with Catholic and other well-established and broad-reaching faith-based health care structures throughout the developing world to facilitate and strengthen vaccine distribution as we work together to save and restore lives.”

As of June 21, the novel coronavirus has spread to six continents, and over 3.9 million people have died of COVID-19.