Monday, October 18

US would ship AstraZeneca vaccines to Mexico and Canada

Washington (CNN) — The Joe Biden administration is considering shipping some doses of AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine in storage and awaiting official approval for use in the US to Mexico and Canada, a senior US official confirmed.

Intense discussions are taking place Following a request for doses from both countries and, at least for Mexico, an agreement could be announced as of Friday, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.

“I would say that we have come a long way, but the details, figures and provisions will not be known until Friday,” Ebrard told reporters on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters. “We request as many (AstraZeneca doses) as possible.”

The Biden administration has promised to have enough vaccines for all Americans before sharing doses, and if this deal goes through, it would be the first time the United States has shared vaccines directly with another country. It is also likely to give a big boost to vaccination efforts in Canada and Mexico, which are struggling with the vaccination process compared to what is happening in the US.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that requests had been received from both Mexico and Canada and said they are being carefully considered. He did not provide details on when a decision would be made.

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The administration official who spoke to CNN said one option being considered is an exchange with the two countries: an agreement to share AstraZeneca doses now on the condition that Mexico and Canada share the excess vaccines with the United States. in the future.

There are tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca in storage in the US and the company believes it will have approximately 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines available to the US government by the end of April. Neither dose is available to Americans now because AstraZeneca has not applied to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an emergency use authorization, and the vaccine is still in clinical trials in the US. USA

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in both Canada and Mexico. The company itself has asked the Biden administration to consider requests to donate some of the inventory to other nations.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Monday that he was close to reaching two agreements on vaccines, but did not specify which countries would send them. Another senior official from Mexico publicly asked the United States to share the AstraZeneca vaccines earlier this week.

A spokesman for the Canadian embassy said there have been “major commitments” with the Biden administration on COVID-19, adding that “there are ongoing talks” when it comes to vaccinating more Canadians. The spokesperson did not comment on the potential swap deal.

Tensions over vaccine diplomacy

These talks come as political leaders in Mexico and Canada are under increasing pressure to secure vaccines amid a global fight over doses.

The United States is now ahead of almost every other country in the world when it comes to vaccinating its population and contracts with vaccine producers. Biden said last week that by May 1, all adults in the country can be vaccinated.

The United States has contributed $ 2 billion in total to a global coronavirus vaccine initiative called COVAX, and has pledged to release an additional $ 2 billion “as we work with other donors to raise commitments.” It has established bilateral agreements with certain countries for vaccine storage efforts and is working together with partners in the Asia-Pacific region to increase production in India.

The Biden administration will eventually share excess vaccines, beyond AstraZeneca dosages, and does not see joint efforts alongside U.S. allies preventing it from unilaterally donating vaccines to other countries in the future, according to the high administration official.

“We will give US $ 4,000 million to COVAX. But we also know that once we vaccinate our own country, since we have suffered more than practically any country other than Brazil – we are very high with more than 530,000 deaths – then we will make the surplus vaccine available to countries that do not have the resources to make them themselves, ”Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing Wednesday.

Biden pledged to the same thing last week.

“If we have a surplus, we will share it with the rest of the world,” Biden said. “We’re going to start by making sure Americans are served first.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said last week that “until everyone in the world is vaccinated, no one is really safe.”

The Biden administration’s decision to focus internally on vaccines, particularly given the dire need globally and the highest priority to reassert US global leadership, is placing the administration in a somewhat awkward position in compared to its global rivals.

China has taken a different approach than the US and is exporting the vaccines in large quantities before they are even fully available in the country. Russia and India are also sharing vaccines, but not on the same scale as Beijing. China’s Foreign Ministry announced on March 3 that it is providing free vaccines to 69 countries and commercially exporting them to 28 more.

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Some US allies and partners are concerned that China’s global effort to increase exports and rapid vaccine production will make it difficult for the US to catch up, diplomats told CNN.

Mexico has received AstraZeneca injections from India and is also the focus of China’s vaccine diplomacy. Mexican media reported on March 9 that the country will receive 22 million doses of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines from China.

US officials have characterized Beijing’s push to aggressively export vaccines as an attempt to extend China’s influence and soft power.

When asked on Wednesday whether the United States will be able to surpass China’s efforts in vaccine diplomacy after fulfilling its pledge to vaccinate Americans, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter did not respond to the question.

A State Department spokesperson said that while Biden has made clear the priority of vaccinating Americans, he is also “deeply focused on the issue of global expansion of vaccination, manufacturing and delivery, which will be critical to putting end the pandemic.

CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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