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US to Export 20 Million More Covid Vaccine Doses

19.05.2021 - US president Joe Biden announced this week that his administration will send an additional 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June, this time including some approved for use in the US.

Destinations for the vaccine “exports” have not been disclosed, but the White House is expected to provide more details about what the criteria for distribution will be in the near future. Biden said he would announce progress in the new multilateral effort at the G7 summit in June.

The 20 million doses of vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration are in addition to the administration's previous commitment to donate 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot to other countries. By the end of June, Biden said the US will have produced enough doses of the vaccine to cover its own citizens.

The new shipments reportedly will include the entire US stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The remaining doses will be either from Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson, or a combination thereof. 

AstraZeneca’s shot has not been approved by the FDA, and Biden said earlier that it may not be needed – even though the Trump administration ordered 400 million doses and the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded the drugmaker and the UK’s Oxford University a $1 million advance purchase contract.

With an estimated 60% of the adult population having received at least one shot, and 36% fully vaccinated, US demand for vaccines now appears to be declining. Health officials worry about holdouts who have said they do not want to be vaccinated, but according to calculations, the country would still have more than enough doses for everyone. Some northern US states are currently are informally sharing excess supply with Canadian border regions.

WHO condemns ”vaccine apartheid”

The perceived oversupply in the US and Europe UK has drawn criticism in particular from the World Health Organization (WHO), amid warnings that  global vaccination inequality could prolong the pandemic if the virus continues to mutate. The world has reached a situation of "vaccine apartheid”, WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The big problem is a lack of sharing."

In announcing the new export plans, Biden said, “no ocean is wide enough, no wall is high enough to keep us safe. Rampant disease and death in other countries can destabilize them — those countries — and pose a risk to us as well." Despite the rhetoric, however, the 80 million doses pledged so far are “only a drop in the bucket,” Peter Hoetz, professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told broadcaster CNN.

The United Nations children’s emergency fund, UNICEF, commented that G7 countries and the EU can afford to donate more than 150 million vaccines to countries in need without compromising their own goals.

The US reportedly has received more than four dozen requests for vaccine donations from countries across the globe. China and Russia have shipped larger shares of their vaccine production abroad, and politicians from both US political parties have urged the president to practice more vaccine diplomacy.

Unlike Russian and Chinese exports, Biden said, the new US donations “will not come with any strings attached. We will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries.” The president said the government will work with COVAX, the WHO’s global vaccine access program, to assure that vaccines are distributed fairly.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist

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