The White House unveiled its plans for sharing unused COVID-19 vaccines with the world, freeing up 25 million shots in the first tranche for countries badly hit by the pandemic such as India and for neighbors Canada and Mexico.
The U.S. has said it will share 80 million doses by the end of June and on Thursday officials said they would retain control of where they go.
The new plan allocates three quarters of unused vaccines for the U.N.-backed COVAX global distribution system, sending some some 6 million to Latin America and the Caribbean, about 7 million to Asia and roughly 5 million to Africa.
President Joe Biden said the U.S. was not sharing vaccinations to ‘secure favors or extract concessions’ as his administration announced where the first 25 million unused doses would be sent. The president has committed to sending 80 million doses overseas by the end of June
An elderly man with breathing difficulty due to coronavirus takes oxygen with the help of an oxygen mask at a COVID-19 care facility, inside Gurudwara Rakab Ganj (Sikh temple), in New Delhi, India. The country is one of the places singled out for vaccine doses by the White House
Where the first 25 million vaccine doses will be going
Nearly 19 million will be shared through the global vaccine distribution system COVAX, with the following allocations:
Approximately 6 million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.
Approximately 7 million for Asia to the following countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands.
Approximately 5 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union.
Another 6 million will be targeted toward regional priorities and partner recipients, including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.
As he made the announcement President Joe Biden said he would not be using the life-saving doses for diplomatic gain.
‘We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions,’ he said.
‘We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values.’
Critics said it was too little, too late and called on the administration to invest in manufacturing sites around the world.
Developed nations have been accused of monopolizing vaccine production, protecting their own populations at the expense of poorer countries.
The U.S. ranks second only to China for vaccine production but was singled out for keeping almost its entire supply at home.
The result was a world waiting to see how the Biden administration would decide to share its doses.
The vast majority will be distributed by COVAX, a World Health Organization-backed program.
Another six million will go to what the White House described as ‘regional priorities’ and ‘partner recipients’ including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.
The Biden administration has said 25% of spare doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies.
‘As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,’ said Biden said.
‘And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.’
In a briefing, said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S would retain control of where the vaccines went.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. would stay in control of where the doses distributed through COVAX ultimately go
‘We’re not seeking to extract concessions, we’re not extorting, we’re not imposing conditions the way that other countries who are providing doses are doing; we’re doing none of those things,’ he said.
‘These are 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.’
He said Gaza had been picked out because of the recent crisis there.
‘We’re not asking anything of the people of Gaza and West Bank, but we feel that given what they are dealing with, in the situation on the ground there, it is only right and proper and good for the United States to actually allocate some doses to that country,’ he said.
Campaigners demanding more help for poor nations said the announcement was a good step but should be followed with a deeper commitment.
‘The donation of these few doses is welcome but deeply insufficient, and no substitute for a plan of scale and urgency to end the pandemic,’ Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program.
‘The U.S. needs to do more, much more.’
Tom Hart, of the One Campaign, also welcomed the news but said the U.S. should accelerate plans to distribute AstraZeneca doses that have not yet been licensed by Washington.
‘However, it’s disappointing to see delays in donating the 60 million AstraZeneca doses – which have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization and will go unused otherwise,’ he said.