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US to export another 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally

The move comes as the country faces pressure to share its vaccine supply with the rest of the world

Illustrative portraits of activists’ loved ones who have died from COVID-19 are displayed during a rally on the National Mall in Washington on May 5.
Illustrative portraits of activists’ loved ones who have died from COVID-19 are displayed during a rally on the National Mall in Washington on May 5. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The United States will export 20 million doses of authorized COVID-19 vaccines to other countries by the end of June, in addition to the 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the administration already pledged to send to Canada, Mexico and other nations, the White House announced Monday.

The administration will send vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson abroad. The move comes as the U.S. faces pressure to share its vaccine supply with the rest of the world to aid the global pandemic response and as U.S. vaccine demand decreases. COVID-19 cases are down in all 50 states, Biden said, and by Tuesday, 60 percent of American adults over 18 will have received at least one shot.

“We know that America will never be fully safe until the pandemic raging globally is under control,” Biden said from the White House, pointing to the spread of virus variants overseas. He noted that the donation would be five times more vaccine than any other country has contributed.

The exports are a small share of the U.S. vaccine supply. The nation has reserved 300 million doses of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines and 200 million doses of the one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, so America is on track to have more doses than residents.

Biden said the United States will continue to donate excess vaccine supply as it becomes available and called on partner nations and pharmaceutical companies to produce more doses and bolster global vaccine supply. This new effort will be led by White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients and Gayle Smith, who currently leads the State Department’s diplomacy effort on the issue.

“Doing this will help us beat the pandemic and leave us with the manufacturing capacity here to prepare for the next crisis, the next vaccine needed,” Biden said.

In late April, Biden announced the U.S. would share up to 60 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine stockpiles with other countries as it becomes available. In March, Biden sent 4 million doses to Canada and Mexico. The United States has not yet authorized the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, but many other countries have.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai last week said the Biden administration would partake in negotiations on a proposal under consideration at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections and expand poorer countries’ access to the lifesaving shots. The U.S. typically does not support waiving patent rights, and soon after Tai announced her support, Germany signaled it would not support the waiver. The WTO requires consensus to move forward on waiving patent rights.

Meanwhile, states across the U.S. have more vaccines available than arms to put them in. The average vaccination rate decreased to 1.7 million shots administered per day on May 13, down from 4.2 million per day at its peak on April 1. Some states have resorted to bribing residents with free beer, $100 savings bonds and even entry into a lottery with a chance to win $1 million to entice them to get the lifesaving vaccine.

Biden also touched on the new face mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and encouraged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The science now shows that your vaccination protects you as well as being masked, or better than being masked,” Biden said.

On Thursday, the CDC announced fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear face masks indoor or outdoors, no matter the crowd size. Unvaccinated people should still wear a mask. Since the CDC released these guidelines, some private businesses have opted to keep mask requirements, as just 47.1 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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Photos of the week ending June 14, 2024