U.S. names global destinations for first batch of vaccine doses it will share

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to allocate 75 per cent of unused COVID-19 vaccines through the United Nations-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, the White House announced Thursday.

Some doses may come Canada's way, but U.S. plan focuses on Africa, Asia, Latin America

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has said it is not attaching political considerations to the receipt of vaccines it will be sharing globally. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to allocate 75 per cent of unused COVID-19 vaccines through the United Nations-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, the White House announced Thursday.

The White House unveiled the allocation for sharing the first 25 million doses with the world. The U.S. has said it plans to share 80 million vaccine doses globally by the end of June. The administration says 25 per cent will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.

"As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be 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 tranche of 25 million doses, the White House says about 19 million will go to COVAX, with approximately six million for South and Central America, seven million for Asia and five million for Africa. The doses mark a substantial — and immediate — boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.

The remaining six million will be directed by the White House to U.S. allies and partners, including Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen, as well as United Nations front-line workers.

Scores of countries have requested doses from the United States. To date, Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5 million doses, with the U.S. loaning Canada 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford doses in March. The U.S. 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 growing U.S. stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines is seen not only as a testament to American ingenuity, but also its privilege. The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has tailed off, and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.

WATCH \ From May: U.S. to share 80 million vaccine doses:

U.S. to share more of its COVID-19 vaccine stockpile

2 years ago
Duration 1:51
The U.S. has announced it will start increasing how much of its stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine with the world through the international vaccine sharing initiative COVAX.

Just over 50 per cent of eligible Americans have received one dose of a vaccine, while about 41 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. has largely employed the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, although about 11 million have been fully vaccinated with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson/Janssen product.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, calling the initiative to get vaccines to several countries "herculean," told reporters she did not yet have a breakdown of vaccines to be exported by brand.

Some have criticized the administration for the delay in announcing the plans, as Biden had first hinted the U.S. would share vaccines in March, before announcing the 80 million number in May. Some vaccines have expiry dates as soon as the end of June, it has been reported by Politico.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week promised the U.S. would work in conjunction with COVAX and "distribute vaccines without political requirements of those receiving them."

AstraZeneca doses to be freed

The president has also promised to share 20 million doses from existing production of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks. Even more doses are expected to be made available to share in the months ahead.

What should Canada do with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses in storage? Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have received one dose, but now several provincial governments have paused offering it as a first dose, due to safety concerns and supply issues. We discuss calls to donate those shots to countries that need them with Lily Caprani, a vaccine advocacy expert with UNICEF global headquarters; Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist at Western University who serves on Ontario's COVID-19 Bioethics Table and Vaccine Distribution Task Force; and Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

As part of its purchase agreements with drug manufacturers, the U.S. controlled the initial production by its domestic manufacturers. Pfizer and Moderna are only now starting to export vaccines produced in the U.S. to overseas customers. The U.S. has hundreds of millions more doses on order, both of authorized and in-development vaccines.

The White House also announced Thursday that it is lifting restrictions on sharing vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, as well as Sanofi and Novavax, which are also not authorized in the U.S., allowing the companies to determine themselves where to share their doses.

Biden has committed to providing other nations with all 60 million domestically produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S. but is widely approved around the world. The U.S.-produced doses will be available to ship as soon as they clear a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

With files from CBC News

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