Covid-19: US to share 60m doses of AstraZeneca vaccines with world
About 50 million more doses are in various stages of production and could be available to ship in May and June
The US will begin sharing its entire pipeline of vaccines from AstraZeneca once the Covid-19 vaccine clear federal safety reviews, the White House said on Monday, with as many as 60 million doses expected to be available for export in the coming months.
The move greatly expands on the Biden administration’s action last month to share about 4 million doses of the vaccine with Mexico and Canada. The AstraZeneca vaccine is widely in use around the world but not yet authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The White House is increasingly assured about the supply of the three vaccines being administered in the US, particularly following the restart of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot over the weekend. The US has also been under mounting pressure in recent weeks to share more of its vaccine supply with the world, as nations like India experience devastating surges of the virus and others struggle to access doses needed to protect their most vulnerable populations.
“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the US already has and that have been authorised by the FDA, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not authorised for use in the US, we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next several months,” said White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. “Therefore the US is looking at options to share the AstraZeneca doses with other countries as they become available.”
More than 3 million people worldwide have died of Covid-19, including more than 572,000 in the US. The US has vaccinated more than 53 per cent of its adult population with at least one dose of its three authorised vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and J&J, and it expects to have enough supply for its entire population by early summer.
About 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have been produced but have yet to pass review by the FDA to “meet its expectations for product quality,” Zients said, noting the US regulator is recognised as the “gold standard” for safety around the world. That process could be completed in the next several weeks. About 50 million more doses are in various stages of production and could be available to ship in May and June pending FDA sign-off.
The US has yet to finalise where the AstraZeneca doses will go, Zients said. Neighbours Mexico and Canada have asked the Biden administration to share more doses, while dozens of other countries are looking to access supplies of the vaccine.
The AstraZeneca doses will be donated by the US government, which has contracted with the company for a total of 300 million doses — though the company has faced production issues.
AstraZeneca’s doses in the US were produced at an Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore that has come under increased regulatory and public scrutiny after botching batches of the J&J vaccine. The US pressed J&J to take over the plant and, as part of the effort to ensure the quality of newly produced vaccines, directed the facility to stop making the AstraZeneca shot. AstraZeneca is still looking to identify a new US production facility for its future doses.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine was initially expected to be the first to receive federal emergency authorisation, and the US government ordered enough for 150 million Americans before issues with the vaccine’s clinical trial held up clearance. The company’s 30,000-person US trial didn’t complete enrolment until January, and it has still not filed for an emergency-use authorisation with the FDA.
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