The Biden administration has been under pressure to provide other hard-hit nations with some of its abundant supply and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said some of the initial doses would go to India, Gaza and the West Bank and other nations and areas he said were “facing crises.”
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the donations would be “surplus” U.S. vaccine and would include the FDA-approved Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but not the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
“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.
“At least 75 percent of these doses—nearly 19 million—will be shared through COVAX, including approximately 6 million doses for Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, and approximately 5 million for Africa, working in coordination with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The remaining doses, just over 6 million, will be shared directly with countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and other partners and neighbors, including Canada, Mexico, India, and the Republic of Korea,” he said.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions. 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,” Biden 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. It’s both the right thing to do and an important step in protecting Americans by helping to stamp out the virus. The president has committed that the U.S. will be an arsenal for vaccines,” Zients said.
COVAX, or COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, is a World Health Organization-backed global vaccine program helping with the distribution, but Sullivan said in a White House COVID-19 briefing following Biden’s statement that the U.S. will have a final say on where the doses go and its effort is focused on countries dealing with “urgent” needs.
“Ultimately the United States will have the authority to say the doses are going here as opposed to there,” Sullivan said. “We will retain the say as to where they go.”
He emphasized Biden’s point that the U.S. is not “extorting or asking concessions or imposing conditions,” and added a slight, “the way other countries who are providing doses are doing.”
“We are doing none of those things. These are doses being donated free and clear to these countries for the sole purpose of improving the public health situation,” he said.
Sullivan also said — in addition to South and Central America, Asia and African countries receiving doses in the first batch — the West Bank and Gaza will also be receiving some of the vaccines.
“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.
Biden’s statement reminded that his administration supports efforts to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and that the U.S. has already shared more than 4 million doses of vaccine with Canada and Mexico.
The president spoke on the U.S. vaccination effort Wednesday, calling on Americans to participate in a “month of action” to reach 70% of American adults vaccinated by July Fourth. His statement Thursday on vaccines abroad comes as he celebrates first lady Jill Biden’s birthday in Rehoboth Beach without big, public plans on their schedule.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday declined to offer specifics ahead of the president but said their distribution was intended to “focus on equity, the equitable distribution of vaccines.”
“We will focus on science,” he told reporters on the effort while on a trip to Costa Rica.
The 25 million doses being sent are coming from the federal supply and are all federally authorized options — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
The administration plans to send at least 80 million doses overseas by the end of the month.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.