Joe Biden has outlined how the US plans to share 80m Covid-19 vaccine doses with other countries, saying the first 25m doses will be disbursed across Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.
After months of mounting pressure from the international community, the Biden administration said last month that it intended to send the 80m doses of US-approved coronavirus vaccines overseas by the end of June, but did not outline which continents or countries would benefit until now.
“As the United States continues our efforts to get every eligible American vaccinated and fight Covid-19 here at home, we also recognize that ending this pandemic means ending it everywhere,” Biden said in a statement issued on Thursday.
“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable. And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home,” he added.
Of the first 25m tranche of doses to be sent overseas, Biden said 19m will be shared through Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, with about 7m doses going to Latin America and the Caribbean, some 7m going to south and south-east Asia, and approximately 5m to Africa.
The doses would mark a substantial – and immediate – boost to the lagging Covax effort, which to date has shared just 76m doses with countries in need.
The remaining 6m will be directed by the White House to US allies and partners, including Mexico, Canada, South Korea, West Bank and Gaza, India, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions,” the president said. “We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values.”
Speaking on Thursday at the White House, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that “this is only the beginning”.
Biden, Sullivan said, has committed to sharing doses “on an ongoing basis” and that “we will continue to donate from our excess supply as that supply is delivered to us”.
Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, explained that the 80m doses comprised 13% of the total coronavirus vaccine doses produced in the US. He said in addition to ongoing donations, the administration will work with US vaccine manufacturers to ramp up domestic production. He said the administration plans to work with “partner nations”, pharmaceutical companies, and other manufacturers to enable vaccine production across the globe, to “not only beat this pandemic, but also [prepare] the world to respond to other future threats”, Zients said.
The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for vaccines in the US has dropped significantly – more than 63% of adults have received at least one dose – and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.
Scores of countries have requested doses from the United States, but to date only Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5m doses. The US has also announced plans to share enough shots with South Korea to vaccinate its 550,000 troops who serve alongside American service members on the peninsula. Zients said that 1m Johnson & Johnson doses were being shipped to South Korea on Thursday.
The growing US stockpile of Covid-19 vaccines is seen by many overseas and at home not only as a testament to America’s achievement but also its global privilege.
Tom Hart the, acting CEO of The One Campaign, called the Thursday announcement a “welcome step” but said the Biden administration needed to commit to sharing more doses. “The world is looking to the US for global leadership and more ambition is needed.”
The White House said the initial 25m doses will be shipped from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. More doses are expected to be made available to share in the months ahead.
Biden has committed to providing other nations with all 60m domestically produced doses of the America’s AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorized for use in the US but is widely approved around the world. The US-produced doses have been held up for export by an ongoing safety review by the Food and Drug Administration, said Zients.
As part of its purchase agreements, the US controlled the initial production by its domestic manufacturers. Pfizer and Moderna are only now starting to export vaccines produced in the US to overseas customers. The US has hundreds of millions more doses on order, both of authorized and in-development vaccines.
The White House also announced on Thursday that it was lifting restrictions on sharing vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, as well as Sanofi and Novavax, which are also not authorized in the US, allowing the companies to determine for themselves where to share their doses.