Apr 26, 2021 - World

U.S. to share AstraZeneca vaccine stockpile with the world

Biden during a meeting with other leaders from the "Quad." Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. will begin sharing its full inventory of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with countries around the world once an FDA safety review is complete, AP reports.

Why it matters: The Biden administration had been under intense global pressure for refusing to share its stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is critical to vaccine rollouts in countries like India but not approved for use in the U.S. Per AP, the administration now expects to be able to share around 60 million doses in the coming months.

What they're saying:

  • White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told AP: “Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the U.S. already has and that have been authorized by the FDA, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not authorized for use in the U.S., we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next several months. Therefore the U.S. is looking at options to share the AstraZeneca doses with other countries as they become available.”
  • White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted: "To everyone who understandably says: 'about time' or 'what were they waiting for', at this time there are still very few available. No real time has been lost."

The state of play: The U.S. has thus far shared just four million AstraZeneca vaccines, sending doses to Mexico and Canada.

  • Both U.S. neighbors have requested additional supplies, as have a number of other countries. Zients said the White House has not yet determined where the doses will go.
  • He also said the FDA review of the vaccine should conclude within the next several weeks.

The big picture: The U.S. is one of the world's four major producers of coronavirus vaccines — along with China, India and the EU — and the only one that has not exported a significant number of doses.

  • In addition to keeping nearly all doses produced in the U.S. at home, President Biden also used the Defense Production Act to ensure priority access to the raw materials needed to produce vaccines.
  • That has led to allegations of "vaccine nationalism" from countries around the world, many of which have yet to begin their vaccine rollouts in earnest.
  • Those charges have gained increased intensity during the brutal second wave in India, with the Biden administration belatedly offering on Sunday to ship supplies to help the country cope.

What to watch: Demand for vaccines is beginning to fall sharply in the U.S., but the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines remain in short supply elsewhere around the world.

  • On the one hand: Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said the U.S. will become "the world leader in helping to make sure that the entire world gets vaccinated."
  • On the other: The White House has said it will prioritize the needs of Americans and build slack into the system for potential booster shots, to potentially vaccinate children, and to address other domestic needs as they arise.

The bottom line: Global requests for U.S.-made vaccines will only grow louder even after Biden starts shipping AstraZeneca doses.

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