The Biden administration
announced on Thursday that it intends to distribute at least 80 million excess COVID-19 vaccine
doses through the global COVAX
partnership and directly to countries in need.
Last month, President Joe Biden
pledged to share tens of millions of doses of vaccines
manufactured by Pfizer
, and Johnson & Johnson
that are not currently used in the United States
The White House
detailed a plan this week for distributing 25 million of those doses, which will serve as a framework for the rest of the vaccine supply to be distributed to the billions of people
worldwide who still require the shots.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions; we are sharing these vaccines to save lives and lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic
, through the power of our example and our values,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.
Three-quarters of the supply earmarked for other countries will be given to COVAX, a global initiative funded in large part by the United States that aims to ensure that everyone on the planet can be immunized against COVID-19 in order to halt the pandemic.
The White House stated that COVAX will be distributed to Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa in quantities ranging from 6 million to 5 million doses.
One-quarter of the supply, or approximately 6 million doses, will be distributed at the discretion of the White House, with priority given to “countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and other partners and neighbors, including Canada
, and the Republic of Korea,” according to the administration.
“As long as this pandemic rages anywhere in the world, the American people will remain vulnerable,” the White House stated in a statement.
Experts agree that even if the United States achieves a high level of vaccination
, allowing the virus to spread unchecked in other parts of the world could cause it to mutate into new versions that are less susceptible to the vaccines we have, putting Americans at greater risk.
Last month, the Biden administration backed a movement led by India and South Africa
to waive patent
protections for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Waiving intellectual property
rights, public health
advocates argue, will allow different parts of the world to mass-produce generic versions of the drugs for their own populations, a critical step toward ending the current epidemic.
The administration reiterated its support for such a waiver on Thursday, saying that “over time, we will need more companies producing life-saving doses of proven vaccines that are shared equitably.”
While COVAX has made strides in equitable vaccine distribution, it has limitations. Although Biden pledged $4 billion to COVAX in February, making the United States the organization's largest single donor, the World Health Organization
estimates that vaccinating most adults worldwide will require up to $45 billion more.
As demand falls across the country, the United States is under increasing pressure to share more of its vaccine stockpile and the raw materials used to make the vaccines with the rest of the world. Nearly 300 million individual doses have been administered in the United States, implying that more than half of eligible American adults have received at least one shot.