After the Trump administration refused to say whether it would share extra doses of the COVID vaccine with other countries, the Biden administration has announced it will send any leftover doses to the rest of the world. But according to Biden, the U.S. won’t be sharing the COVID vaccine until all Americans are vaccinated.
After announcing the government had secured an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in mid-March, President Biden announced his administration will share any extra doses with other countries.
“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Biden said.
Biden said sharing extra COVID vaccine doses globally would help make the world safer, especially for Americans traveling or working abroad. However, the U.S. is in no rush to do so. Biden said he was putting his countrymen first.
“[COVID] is not something that can be stopped by a fence, no matter how high you build a fence or a wall. So we’re not going to be ultimately safe until the world is safe,” Biden said. “So we’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but then we’re then going to try to help the rest of the world.”
Biden has been under pressure to share any extra vaccine doses, while the U.S. has continued to stockpile vaccinations. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said many countries have asked for help from the U.S., but all requests for vaccine donations have been denied.
The U.S. government has purchased enough vaccinations to immunize every adult in America three times while the rest of the world faces shortages, according to The Hill. The White House said the extra doses may be useful in case of a manufacturing emergency. They could also be used as booster shots against new strains of COVID, though there is no indication that will be necessary.
The U.S. is far ahead of many other countries when it comes to vaccine distribution. According to Bloomberg, 21.7% of the American population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. For comparison, only 5% of Canada’s population and about 8% of the European Union’s population have been vaccinated.
The Biden administration previously announced it had secured enough vaccinations for every American adult by the end of May. However, Biden also said the U.S. would acquire an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the second half of 2021.
The U.S. is also holding on to tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet approved for use in the U.S. The Trump administration previously purchased 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Biden administration is holding onto these doses despite the fact that they are sitting in storage.
Some experts believe the U.S. could help other countries by donating vaccines without impacting their own distribution plan but is unwilling to do so.
“The world is currently facing a vaccine access crisis and the Biden administration has not yet established a clear framework or timeline for distributing excess vaccine doses while simultaneously vaccinating the U.S.’ domestic population,” Sarah Swinehart, a spokeswoman for The ONE Campaign, told The Hill.
Biden previously committed to working with leaders in Australia, Japan, and India to boost manufacturing and administration of vaccinations in Asia. Biden also shared that the U.S. has given $4 billion to COVAX, a program led by the World Health Organization to help distribute vaccinations globally.
So far, 111 million doses have been administered in the U.S. by mid-March, and roughly 2.44 million vaccines are administered per day, according to Bloomberg. Though the Biden administration says there will be enough vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May, the U.S. is still many months away from achieving herd immunity.
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