The US has tens of millions of AstraZeneca’s vaccine stockpiled but none have been used because it has not yet been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Because President Joe Biden’s officials now feel confident the US has enough doses for its population, they will begin to distribute it to other countries pending a safety review.
Multiple world leaders have pressed Biden to share doses as other countries have struggled to ramp up vaccinations. One of those countries is India, which is currently going through one of the worst Covid surges in the world. Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on Monday, but a readout from the call released by the White House did not mention sharing vaccines.
The Associated Press was first to report on the plans.
Countries have been eagerly petitioning the United States for shipments of vaccines as doses are snapped up by wealthy nations. Biden administration officials have described near-daily phone calls from allies — poor and rich alike — seeking help securing vaccine doses.
The US is expected to have a surplus of vaccines in the hundreds of millions of doses. Some of those doses have already been sent to Mexico and Canada.
But US “vaccine diplomacy” has been sharply limited by concerns among Biden administration officials that unforeseen factors may necessitate a stockpile of doses, including requiring boosters, the spread of variants, and the still-uncertain nature of which vaccine works best among children.
Political concerns have also weighed on officials, who are wary of sending doses abroad before every American can access them.
“We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using. We got to make sure they are safe to be sent. And we hope to be able to be of some hope and value to countries around the world,” Biden said earlier this month.
Other countries like Russia and China — regimes where the political downside of sending vaccines abroad have little bearing on leaders’ decision-making — have far outpaced the US in distributing vaccines, expanding their influence in places like Southeast Asia.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.