WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday unveiled President Joe Biden’s plan for sharing 75% of unused COVID-19 vaccines with the rest of the world, sending excess supply to other countries struggling to vaccinate their populations in an effort to end the global pandemic.
The U.S. previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The White House unveiled its plan for the first 25 million doses on Thursday, and about 19 million of these will be shared through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, the White House said.
Roughly 6 million doses will be distributed to Latin America and the Caribbean, 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, and approximately 5 million for Africa, officials said. The remaining 6 million doses will be shared directly with countries currently experiencing COVID-19 case surges "and other partners and neighbors," including Canada, Mexico, India and the Republic of Korea.
The administration added that 25% of doses 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," the White House said in a statement.
President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the South Court Auditorium of the White House June 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly. Data shows that 63% of American adults have received at least one dose and nearly 52% are fully vaccinated, helping bring the rate of cases and deaths in the U.S. to the lowest level since the earliest days of the pandemic.
But the growing U.S. stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines amid shortages in many other countries has become more glaring in recent days.
Scores of countries have requested doses from the U.S., but to date, only Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5 million doses. The U.S. also has announced plans to share enough shots with South Korea to vaccinate its 550,000 troops who serve alongside American service members on the peninsula.
Biden has committed to providing other nations with all 60 million domestically produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S. but is widely approved around the world. The U.S.-produced doses will be available to ship as soon as they clear a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.
The president also has promised to share 20 million doses from the existing production of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks. Even more doses are expected to be made available to share in the months ahead.
As part of its purchase agreements with drug manufacturers, the U.S. controlled the initial production by its domestic manufacturers. Pfizer and Moderna are only now starting to export vaccines produced in the U.S. to overseas customers. The U.S. has hundreds of millions of more doses on order, both of authorized and in-development vaccines.
The White House also announced Thursday that it is lifting restrictions on sharing vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, as well as Sanofi and Novavax, which are also not authorized in the U.S., allowing the companies to determine themselves where to share their doses.
Globally, more than 3.5 million people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen the largest confirmed loss of life from COVID-19, at more than 595,000 people, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.