WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The White House Thursday unveiled President Joe Biden’s plans to share U.S. COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, including its intent to direct 75% of excess doses through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program.
The administration said 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies to help with surges around the world and to share directly with allies and partners. The White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions,” Biden said in a statement. “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. And we will continue to follow the science and to work in close cooperation with our democratic partners to coordinate a multilateral effort, including through the G7.”
The administration says Canada and Mexico have already received doses and that hard-hit countries like India are on the list. It comes at a time when, in some parts of the U.S., there is a surplus, some shots that are set to expire by the end of the month.
“If there are countries that could use them, including our neighbor to the north Canada, it should be used there, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I think we don’t want vaccine going into the trashcan. So I think if there is vaccine expiring, I think there are better uses for it.”
Last month, Biden announced the U.S. would share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world. Those doses would come from existing U.S. production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, Biden said. The Biden’s administration previously committed to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June. The AstraZeneca vaccine is widely in use around the world but not yet authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The long-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly and as global inequities in supply have become more glaring.
Health experts say interest in the vaccine has waned, though the CDC says there’s been an uptick in teens and tweens currently a quarter of all new vaccinations. Researchers at Harvard University Medical Center say after a year of messaging that being asymptomatic could still be dangerous – youth are getting their shots. The CDC says children of all ages could get the vaccines by the end of the year.
To date 62.9% of the adult U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 133.6 million are full vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The rate of new vaccinations has slowed again to an average below 600,000 per day, down from more than 800,000 per day when incentives like lotteries were announced, and down from a peak of nearly 2 million per day in early April when demand for shots was much higher.
While face coverings are still required in airports and onboard public transportation, big cities like Chicago are fully reopening, meaning for most places a mask isn’t required if you’re vaccinated starting June 11.
In California, the state requires all workers to keep wearing masks inside until June 15, when the state fully reopens, even though the federal government has said masks are only needed if people aren’t vaccinated.
It’s causing some concerns for businesses who don’t know what to enforce when it comes to masks.
Biden announced a “month of action” Wednesday to get more shots into arms before the July 4 holiday. The early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make getting shots more appealing are essential to Biden’s plans to get 70% of adults partially vaccinated by Independence Day and return the nation to a sense of normalcy this summer.