The Biden administration will share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as supply becomes available, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor on the COVID response announced Monday.
The FDA will confirm all doses meet quality requirements before shipped out, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Monday. She noted approximately 10 million doses could be released when the FDA gives it the greenlight, potentially “in the coming weeks,” with an additional 50 million doses under production with completion eyed for May and June.The move significantly expands vaccine exports after the U.S. announced plans last month to send a combined 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Canada and Mexico.
Slavitt took to Twitter Monday to defend the decision, which some might argue was delayed.
“To everyone who understandably says: ‘about time’ or ‘what were they waiting for,’ at this time there are still very few available,” he wrote. “No real time has been lost.”
“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the U.S. already has and that have been authorized by the FDA, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not authorized for use in the U.S., we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next several months,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, according to the Associated Press. “Therefore the U.S. is looking at options to share the AstraZeneca doses with other countries as they become available.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S. but has been by the World Health Organization. Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the U.S. should it receive emergency use authorization, sparking an international outcry that lifesaving doses were being withheld when they could be used elsewhere.
AstraZeneca indicated late last month it planned to file its COVID-19 vaccine for FDA emergency authorization “in the coming weeks.”
The jab has faced significant blunders abroad as E.U. and U.K. health authorities investigated rare reports of blood clots post-vaccination, and about a dozen mostly European countries briefly halted inoculations out of precaution. Regulators since confirmed that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh risks of side effects.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.