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Biden administration to send 25 mn vaccine doses abroad, including India

Through the UN-organized Covax program, the US plans to distribute 6 million shots to Central and South America, 7 million to Asia including hard-hit India and 5 million to Africa

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Biden has also pledged to donate 60 million AstraZeneca Plc vaccines by the end of June

The US government will send 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to foreign countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, the first time President Joe Biden’s administration has shared shots it could have used at home.

Through the UN-organized Covax program, the US plans to distribute 6 million shots to Central and South America, 7 million to Asia including hard-hit India and 5 million to Africa, the White House said in a statement.

The US will directly send another 6 million shots to countries including Mexico, Canada, South Korea and the Palestinian territories, the White House said.

The move is a watershed moment for the US, which secured the first hundreds of millions of doses made on its soil for domestic use but intends to be an engine of vaccine production globally. As vaccine demand wanes at home, Biden is facing calls internationally to release the American stockpile of shots made by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson in order to curb the rise of variants against which existing vaccines might provide less protection.

Administration officials have consulted with vaccine manufacturers and international organizations on aspects of the operation, including transportation logistics and legal requirements, one person familiar with the plans said.

Thursday’s announcement will include a framework to distribute shots among countries based on need. Biden has said his administration will donate 80 million doses by the end of this month, including 60 million that aren’t yet available for use.

Nonetheless, the move is a sign of a cresting wave of American vaccine production poised to meet world demand. The gap between US doses delivered and actually administered has risen to 70 million -- much of which are in various stages of distribution. But the figure is an indication of the US glut Biden has to work with.

Another 60 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine remains on US shelves, despite Biden’s repeated promises to export them. That shot has not been authorized for US use and is still under review by the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition to the Biden administration’s plans to begin sharing doses it bought, Pfizer and Moderna have both begun filling international orders from US plants that previously supplied only the US government.

Harris is set to meet with the leaders of Mexico and Guatemala next week on a trip through the region. Mexico and other countries have publicly asked the US to share its vaccines, and some European allies had criticized Biden for hoarding US production.

Next week, the president will leave for his first international trip, a series of stops in Europe including meetings of the Group of 7 nations, NATO and the European Union. A summit in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin is also planned.

In the US, 297 million doses of vaccines have been administered so far. In the past week, an average of 1.1 million doses per day were administered, down significantly from just several weeks ago.

Biden has said he will not use US vaccines as a diplomatic tool, after accusing China and Russia of leveraging doses of their vaccines for foreign policy gains.

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First Published: Thu, June 03 2021. 21:07 IST