The United States will donate 75% of its unused COVID-19 vaccine to the United Nations-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, President Joe Biden announced on Thursday.
The White House has announced an allocation to share the first 25 million doses of the drug with the world. The US says it plans to share 80 million doses of the vaccine globally by the end of June. The administration says 25% will be stockpiled for emergencies and for the US to share directly with allies and partner.
“As long as this pandemic rages in every corner of the world, the American people will remain vulnerable,” Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”
Of the first 25 million doses, the White House said about 19 million would go to COVAX, with about 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia and 5 million for Africa. These doses mark a significant – and immediate – boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which has so far shared only 76 million doses with disadvantaged countries.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US “will hold its own on where” doses delivered through COVAX will ultimately go.
“We are not seeking concessions, we are not blackmailing, we are not imposing conditions the way other countries that are providing the drug do; Sullivan said. “These are medicines that are being given, freely and explicitly to these countries, with the sole purpose of improving public health and helping to end the pandemic.”
According to the White House fact sheet, for doses shared through COVAX, “the United States will prioritize Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, in coordination with the African Union.” . Specifically in Asia, doses delivered by US-distributed COVAX will go to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the Pacific Islands.
The remaining 6 million will be transferred by the White House to US allies and partners, including Mexico, Canada and South Korea, the West Bank and Gaza, India, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for frontline workers of the United Nations.
The US’s growing COVID-19 vaccine stockpile is seen as a testament not only to American ingenuity but to its global prerogative. The long-awaited vaccine-sharing plan comes as demand for vaccines in the United States has dropped dramatically, as more than 63% of adults have been given at least one dose, and as discontent The global equality in supply is increasingly evident.
Many countries have requested doses from the United States, but so far only Mexico and Canada have received a total of 4.5 million 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. The White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zient said that 1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson were shipped to South Korea on Thursday.
Biden has committed to supplying other countries with all 60 million doses of the domestically produced AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine is not yet approved for use in the United States, but has been widely approved around the world. The US-made doses will be available for shipping as soon as the Food and Drug Administration completes a safety review.
The White House said 25 million doses will initially be shipped from existing Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks. Even more dosages are expected to be made available for sharing in the coming months.
As part of purchase agreements with drug manufacturers, the United States controls initial production by domestic manufacturers. Pfizer and Moderna are currently only starting to export vaccines made in the US to foreign customers. The United States has hundreds of millions of additional doses on order, both licensed and in development.
The White House also announced on Thursday that it is lifting restrictions on sharing vaccines made by AstraZeneca, as well as Sanofi and Novavax, which are also not authorized in the US, allowing the companies to determine where to share their own their dosage.