President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will donate 75 percent of its unused COVID-19 vaccines to the U.N -backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, acting as more Americans have been vaccinated and global inequities have become more glaring.
Of the first tranche of 25 million doses, about 19 million will go to COVAX, with approximately 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia and 5 million for Africa, a breakdown of sharing reported by Associated Press stated.
The doses mark a substantial and immediate boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.
Overall, the White House aims to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through COVAX.
But 25 percent of the nation’s excess will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. “will retain the say” on 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,” said Sullivan. “These are doses 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.”
The remaining 6 million in the initial tranche of 25 million will be directed by the White House to U.S. allies and partners, including Mexico, Canada, South Korea, West Bank and Gaza, India, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.
Vice President Kamala Harris informed some U.S. partners they will begin receiving doses, in separate calls with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago. Harris is to visit Guatemala and Mexico in the coming week.
The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly — more than 63% of adults have received at least one dose — and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.