US to export further 20m Covid-19 vaccines, Biden announces

Move marks first time vaccines already approved by US regulators will be sent abroad

The United States is to export an extra 20 million vaccine doses overseas, responding to calls for the US and other western countries to share more of their vaccine stock.

Twenty million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be exported by the end of next month, President Joe Biden announced on Monday, in addition to the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines already committed by the administration.

It marks the first time that vaccines already approved by US regulators will be sent abroad. Though the Biden administration committed to sharing 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries last month, the vaccine has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We know that America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that is raging globally is under control. No ocean is wide enough, no wall is high enough to keep us safe,” Mr Biden said as he announced the new donations.

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” he said. Noting that America had now committed to exporting a total of 80 million vaccines, he said that means that 13 per cent of America’s vaccines will be exported between now and the end of June – “five times more than any other country”.

Global pressure

The United States had been coming under pressure to share some of its vaccine stock with countries where vaccine rollout is less advanced. Sixty per cent of adults in America have now received at least one vaccine shot.

It is not yet clear which countries will receive the pledged US stock, but press secretary Jen Psaki said there would be more information in the coming days on the "criteria and approach" for distributing the vaccines.

Mr Biden also urged all Americans to get vaccinated, as he seeks to reach his goal of ensuring that 70 per cent of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot by July 4th.

“In less than four months we’ve gone from less than 6 per cent to 60 per cent of adults in America who have got at least one shot,” he said. But he added: “We still have tens of millions still to be vaccinated . . . the progress is undeniable, but we’re not done yet.”

"Getting vaccinated has never been easier," he said, noting that there are now 80,000 places where people can be inoculated while 90 per cent of Americans live within 8km of a vaccine site. He also highlighted the fact that ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are offering free rides for anyone who needs to be transported to and from a vaccination centre.

“Given that the vaccination is convenient and free, it will be a tragedy and a needless one, to see Covid cases among those who do not get vaccinated go up,” said Mr Biden. Many pharmacies and health centres are also offering vaccines to walk-up customers without an appointment.

In a sign that American society is preparing for a full reopening, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York marathon would take place in November, albeit with reduced numbers. Some 33,000 runners will be permitted to take part in the event on November 7th, compared with the 55,000 who usually run the race.