US falls short on vaccine-sharing goal

·2-min read

US President Joe Biden has come up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed the pace of US vaccine diplomacy.

Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a share of the excess COVID-19 vaccine doses, the US has shipped less than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries, according to an Associated Press tally.

The White House says more will be sent in the coming days - with about 40 million doses expected to be shipped by the end of the week - and stresses that Biden has done everything in his power to meet the commitment.

It's not for lack of doses, with the White House saying all of the US shots are ready to ship.

Rather, it's taking more time than anticipated to sort through a complex web of legal requirements, health codes, customs clearances, cold-storage chains, language barriers and delivery programs.

Complicating matters even further is that no two shipments are alike.

One country requires an act of its cabinet to approve the vaccine donation, others require inspectors to conduct their own safety checks on the US doses and still others have yet to develop critical aspects of their vaccine distribution plans to ensure the doses can reach people's arms before they spoil.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said all intended recipient countries had received formal US offers of a specific number and type of vaccine, and all legal and logistical hurdles on the US side had been cleared.

"The remaining doses will be shipped in the coming weeks as countries complete their own domestic set of operational regulatory and legal processes. They're specific to each country," Zients said on Thursday.

The White House declined to specify which countries were struggling with which local hurdles, saying it is working with recipient countries on an individual basis to remove obstacles to delivery.

Biden announced the 80 million target on May 17, saying "This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date - five times more than any other country - more than Russia and China".

Biden initially committed to providing other countries with all 60 million US-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorised for use in the US but is widely approved around the world.

The AstraZeneca doses have been held up for export by a two-month safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Given declining domestic demand for vaccine doses, the Biden administration expects to be able to meet the full 80 million commitment without the AstraZeneca doses but rather from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines.

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