The U.S. on Thursday detailed plans to donate at least 80 million coronavirus vaccine doses globally by the end of June, including 7 million for India and other parts of Asia, as Washington aims to close the gap with Beijing in vaccine diplomacy.
The administration announced its framework for sharing at least 80 million United States vaccine doses globally by the end of June and the plan for the first 25 million doses.
"Today, we're providing more detail on how we will allocate the first 25 million of those vaccines to lay the ground for increased global coverage and to address real and potential surges, high burdens of disease, and the needs of the most vulnerable countries", Biden said in a statement.
The United States has been heavily criticized for vaccine hoarding, as the second-biggest manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines in the world, but until recently, refusing to allow any doses to be exported. The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the USA has tailed off, and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.
Biden said that US' decision was not to "secure favors or extract concessions" but to save lives and bring an end to the pandemic. To date, Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5 million doses, with the US loaning Canada 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford doses in March.
At Thursday's COVID-19 briefing following the announcement, Zients said, "As the days get brighter and brighter at home, we're focused on driving progress to help the pandemic - help end the pandemic around the globe".
The remaining 6 million will be directed by the White House to USA allies and partners, including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, India, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.
The administration was committed to bringing the same urgency to global vaccination efforts that it demonstrated at home, he added.
The White House did not say when the doses would begin shipping overseas, but press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration hoped to send them "as quickly as we can logistically get those out the door".
The president's remarks came as countries such as China are seeking to boost their influence through "vaccine diplomacy". 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 Indian Ambassador to the United States also added that U.S. has also announced the removal of the Defense Production Act, which means no more priority supply will now be required. The U.S. also has 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 is also removing special powers it granted through the Defense Production Act (DPA) to certain vaccine makers that received US funding but do not yet have USA approvals, including AstraZeneca, Sanofi SA/GlaxoSmithKline Plc, and Novavax Inc.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus weighed in to say he was "very appreciative" of Biden announcing the distribution of doses "to protect those most at-risk & for encouraging others to do the same".
Biden has committed to providing other nations with all 60 million domestically produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Additional doses are expected to be made available in the coming months.
As part of its purchase agreements with the pharmaceutical companies, the federal government controlled the distribution of the vaccines. It has also sold many more: 732 million doses in all, including nearly 291 million to the Asia-Pacific and slightly more than 281 million to Latin America.