Jun 3, 2021 - Health

White House selects destinations for first wave of vaccine donations

Biden stands behind a podium next to an American flag

President Biden at the White House on June 2. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Thursday laid out its framework for sharing vaccines for the world and named the recipients of the first 25 million doses, taking a major step toward becoming a global vaccine supplier.

Why it matters: The U.S. had until recently been the only major vaccine producer to keep virtually its entire supply at home, while countries looked to Russia or China for doses. But Biden has pledged to share at least 80 million doses this month and additional shipments beyond that.

Driving the news: The White House said today that 75% of the first wave of doses would go through the WHO-backed COVAX initiative, with priority shipments to Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.

  • Another 25% of the vaccines will be shared bilaterally to address immediate surges (with first doses available to Mexico and Canada).
  • Through COVAX, approximately 6 million doses are planned for South and Central America, including hard-hit Brazil. 7 million doses are expected to reach Asia, including India and Pakistan.
  • Africa will receive 5 million doses with recipient countries to be chosen through coordination with the African Union, the White House said.

The 25 million doses will be comprised of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed at a press briefing.

  • The doses will be allocated from the federal pool of supply, not from states, Zients also confirmed.
  • The 60 million AstraZeneca doses Biden has promised to share still have not been cleared by the FDA, Zients said.

What they're saying: “We want to save lives and thwart variants that place all of us at risk,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the briefing.

  • “And as the president has said, the United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries," he added.
  • “We also know that this won’t be enough to end or reduce the life-span of the pandemic, and that’s why we’re working with allies and partners to expand the production of vaccines and raw materials.”

What to watch: The U.S. rollout of overseas vaccine shipments comes ahead of Biden's first foreign trip as president. He will attend the G7 summit in England, NATO summit in Brussels, and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month.

  • Sullivan noted that the 80 million-dose pledge is five times what any other country has promised to donate. He said the U.S. would be pressing other countries to donate while also seeking to build up manufacturing capacity around the world.
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