President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that the US will soon release some 25 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine that the nation has in its stockpile, offering them to countries around the world that are in dire need as part of an overall donation of 80 million doses.
The millions of doses, of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, will be apportioned out to nations around the globe, including Canada and Mexico and nations in Central and South America, as well as Africa and Asia.
Recent surges of virus variants have made for increasingly desperate times in countries all around the globe as they grapple with deficits of vaccines. The first tranche of vaccines will be distributed through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, according to the White House.
The US now has more than ample supplies at home, with more than 63% of adults having received at least the first dose of a vaccine — and lagging interest among some other individuals.
Soon, the doses that some Americans shun will be diverted abroad, where they will be appreciated by those who are desperate to be inoculated in order to have their lives return to something approaching normalcy.
80 Million doses to supplement COVAX global campaign
The doses mark a substantial boost to the lagging COVAX campaign, which so far has administered only 76 million inoculations worldwide to those in need.
The announcement came just after World Health Organization (WHO) officials in Africa made a renewed request for vaccines as the continent experiences an alarming surge in the virus. Shipments of vaccines to Africa has “ground to a near halt,” according to a report from the Associated Press, while coronavirus cases are spiking once again.
The White House will share as much as 80 million vaccine doses by the end of June, with most of them going through the COVAX program. One quarter of the US’ excess doses will be kept in abeyance, however, in order to deal with emergencies and to be shared directly with its allies and partners, according to officials.
Approximately six million of the initial 19 million of the COVAX doses will be headed for Central and South America, while seven million are targeted for Asia and five million to Africa.
“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
“And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”
Vaccines “Donated free and clear”
However, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan cautioned that the US “will retain the say” on where doses end up being distributed through the COVAX program. He added, though, that “These are doses that are being given, donated free and clear to these countries, for the sole purpose of improving the public health situation and helping end the pandemic.”
The remaining six million of the initial 25 million-dose tranche will be directed to US allies and partners, according to the White House, including Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the West Bank and Gaza, India, Ukraine, Kosovo, Egypt, Haiti, Georgia, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen.
United Nations frontline workers will also be eligible for the US-donated vaccines.
Vice President Kamala Harris already informed the leaders of several nations that they will soon begin receiving their doses. The leader of Mexico, Manuel Lopez Obrador, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Indian President Narendra Modi and PM Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago have been informed by Harris that their nations will be recipients of the vaccines soon.
The much-anticipated vaccine sharing plan becomes a reality just as the desire for vaccines begins to wane in the United States among those who are eligible.
The Associated Press reports that scores of nations have requested doses from the United States — but so far only Canada and Mexico have received any directly from the US — with both nations sharing a total of 4.5 million doses.
US-based vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna have European branches and are producing vaccines there for European distribution.
Now, the US will be sharing enough shots with staunch ally South Korea to enable the 550,000 troops from that nation who serve alongside American soldiers to become inoculated.
White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Thursday that a total of one million J & J doses were being shipped straight to South Korea that very day.
According to Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, which is leading the COVAX effort, “Frontline workers and at-risk populations will receive potentially life-saving vaccinations,” bringing the globe “a step closer to ending the acute phase of the pandemic.”
AstraZeneca vaccine doses sitting in limbo in US stockpile
Biden has also pledged to provide other nations with all 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that it has had in a stockpile for months. The vaccine produced from Oxford University and AstraZeneca has yet to be approved for emergency use in the United States, while it has been employed elsewhere around the globe for months.
The doses, which were produced in the United States, have been held up, unable to be exported, because the AstraZeneca vaccine is still being reviewed by the US’ Food and Drug Administration.
In its announcement on Thursday, the White House stated that the initial tranche of 25 million doses will be shipped out of the federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and J & J vaccines. Additional doses are expected to be made available in the coming months.
Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador said via Twitter that VP Harris had informed him of the White House decision to send one million shots of the J & J vaccine. He stated “I expressed to her our appreciation in the name of the people of Mexico,” in his Tweet.
Guatemalan President Giammettei stated that Harris had told him that the US would be sending a total of 500,000 doses of the precious vaccines.
As part of its purchase agreements with the pharmaceutical companies, the federal government controlled the distribution of the vaccines. It is only now that Pfizer and Moderna have begun to export vaccines produced in the United States to overseas customers.
As of now, the federal government has hundreds of millions of doses — of both authorized and in-development vaccines — on order. The Pfizer company alone has projected that it will have been able to produce as many as 100 million doses by July 31.
Hablamos con la vicepresidenta Kamala Harris. Tuvo la gentileza de informarnos, antes del anuncio que hicieron en Estados Unidos, la decisión de enviarnos un millón de vacunas Johnson & Johnson de una sola dosis. Le expresé nuestro agradecimiento en nombre del pueblo de México. pic.twitter.com/uEJLdr6wlZ
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) June 3, 2021