WASHINGTON – The U.S. on announced plans to share as many as 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it receives federal approval in the coming months, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration has faced increased pressure to share its supply of vaccines as more than 40% of Americans are at least partially vaccinated and other countries like India grapple with a devastating spike in cases. India reported nearly 353,000 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, setting a new world record for the fifth straight day, as overwhelmed hospitals face a critical oxygen shortage.
Psaki said the administration’s confidence in its supply of the three federally approved vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – was behind the decision to share more vaccines. The U.S. restarted its use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday after it was briefly paused to review a rare blood-clot disorder linked to the shot.
“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States has already authorized… We do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID over the next few months before any AstraZeneca doses are shipped from the United States,” Psaki told reporters during a White House press briefing.
The Biden administration last month “loaned” to Mexico and Canada about 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to receive emergency authorization approval from the Food and Drug Administration. But the White House has continued to face questions about plans to share more vaccines as supply begins to outweigh demand across the U.S. Some states have already turned down or scaled back vaccine shipments.
If the AstraZeneca vaccine receives federal clearance, the U.S. expects to be able to send up to 10 million doses in the coming weeks, Psaki said. An additional 50 million doses which are in various stages of production could be completed in May and June.
The U.S. announced Sunday it would send raw materials to make vaccines, rapid diagnostic testing kits and other medical equipment to India that was previously subject to an export ban. The administration is also looking at options to provide oxygen generation “on an urgent basis” and funding to boost India’s domestic production of vaccines.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.
The apparent U-turn came a day after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he spoke to his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, as the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb.
More than 40% of the total population have been at least partially vaccinated, ranking the U.S. near the top in vaccination rates, Our World In Data reports. Meanwhile, more than 145.9 million cases and 3 million deaths have been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Contributing: Kaanita Iyer