The Biden administration on Thursday announced it will donate 25 million coronavirus doses abroad, with most of them allocated to the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.
In a fact sheet, the White House said it will donate about 19 million doses to COVAX; about 6 million directly to countries in need, including Mexico, Canada and South Korea; and for United Nations front-line workers.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions. 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,” President Biden said in a statement.
Pressure has been growing on the White House to develop a plan to donate its excess vaccines to countries that have been hit hard by the virus without the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations. The concern is that without vaccinations, new variants of the virus may arise in those countries that could threaten the rest of the world.
Thursday’s announcement, which comes ahead of the Group of Seven Summit next week, stops short of the 80 million total doses promised by the administration last month. Instead, it focuses only on the 20 million authorized vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Biden has said the U.S. will donate “at least” 20 million of those by the end of June.
He has also pledged to donate 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is not authorized for use in the U.S., but that effort has been hamstrung by manufacturing safety concerns and a related Food and Drug Administration review.
The Biden administration has been facing growing calls to help bolster the global vaccination effort as demand and enthusiasm for vaccines wane in the U.S. while other countries face a crisis.
According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. and other high-income countries have secured almost 90 percent of the available coronavirus vaccine supply.
The administration had initially been reluctant to send any doses overseas, saying the extra doses could be a backstop for possible manufacturing issues in the U.S., used to vaccinate children or serve as booster doses if necessary to fight against variants of the virus.
To date, most of the U.S. international support has come in the form of money, with the administration committing $4 billion to COVAX.
The administration earlier agreed to give 4.2 million doses of vaccines to Mexico and Canada — the only U.S.-owned doses that have been sent abroad.