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US reveals plan for first 25M donated vaccine doses

Published: in European News by .

The announcement comes after long debate within the Biden administration about whether it could spare shots despite weakening US demand and a growing vaccine surplus.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has announced which countries will share in the first 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the U.S. to help low- and middle-income nations combat the pandemic.

The U.S. will route about 19 million doses — roughly 75 percent — through the global vaccine aid program COVAX, the White House said Wednesday. The Biden administration will send the remaining 25 percent of the doses directly to specific countries.

Six million of the doses allocated to COVAX will go to countries in South and Central America, including Brazil, Paraguay and other El Salvador. Seven million doses will be sent to Asian countries, including India, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines. Another 5 million doses will go to African countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union. Six million doses will be sent directly by the U.S. to allies and “regional priorities,” including Mexico, Canada, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Egypt and Iraq, the White House said.

The White House announcement comes after months of debate within the administration about whether it could spare shots despite weakening U.S. demand and a growing surplus of doses. Officials also struggled toprioritize requests forvaccines from more than four dozen countries.

“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

For months the world has waited to see which countries would share in the United States’ vaccine bounty.

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Biden said in late April that the U.S. would send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine abroad by July 4 — a commitment made amid growing global concern about sharp spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths in India. On May 17, Biden said the U.S. would donate an additional 20 million doses — a mix of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s shots — by the end of June.

The Biden team has come under increasing pressure by lawmakers on Capitol Hill to accelerate its vaccine-donation plans, especially when countries such as India and Brazil have seen tens of thousands of people die of COVID-19 in the span of just a few weeks. U.S. diplomats overseas have also pushed the State Department to send vaccine abroad as a way to counter Russia and China, which are using their homegrown shots to win political concessions from recipients. And senior health officials have told the White House that the U.S. has more than enough vaccine in its stockpile for America’s needs.

Senior administration officials have rejected criticism that the Biden team has moved too slowly to on vaccine donations, citing a Food and Drug Administration safety review of AstraAzeneca doses as the reason for the delay.

Those officials said the administration also needed time to work out a rubric to guide which countries or groups would receive the doses before they made an announcement about the allocations. An interagency team including representatives of the National Security Council, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development has worked for weeks to determine how to rank donation requests based on factors such as a country’s rate of virus transmission and its existing supplies of vaccine and drugs for treating COVID-19.

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Any country on the receiving end must have a robust distribution infrastructure to ensure the shots are used before they expire. The Biden administration also will need to work with receiving countries on contract language that includes an indemnification clause to protect a vaccine’s maker against legal liability for things like adverse reactions, the officials said.

Two national security officials familiar with deliberations on vaccine requests told POLITICO the administration was originally concerned about the situation in South Asia, including Nepal and the Philippines, but that the focus has shifted in recent days to South America.

The vaccine donations supplement a broader effort in the Biden administration to provide COVID-19 humanitarian assistance to the rest of the world. USAID is leading the effort in trying to identify life saving supplies such as masks, gloves and oxygen components in the supply chain, buy the products and find ways to ship them to countries across the world.

That effort has slowed in recent weeks, even after the administration said it would provide supplies to India, two officials with knowledge of the matter said. Prices for personal protective equipment are rising again and oxygen components are increasingly difficult to come by. Officials said there is an added hurdle of finding enough cargo space to ship the materials overseas.


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