White House announces 20M COVID vaccine doses are being sent abroad

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The Biden administration on Monday announced plans to send 20 million US-approved COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries by the end of June as the US population moves closer to herd immunity.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said those doses will be in addition to 60 million AstraZeneca doses that aren’t approved for use in the US and which are under review for possible contamination before they are shipped abroad.

Psaki did not say which countries would receive the doses, but she said the US would be leading the world in gifting vaccines if the AstraZeneca doses are deemed usable.

“That is a total of 80 million doses and this is the most doses donated by any country in the world by five times,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing. “This will put 80 million doses out into the world by the end of June.”

Manufacturing problems at a Baltimore facility operated by Emergent BioSolutions stalled US plans to distribute the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses and separately ruined 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses.

The AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t approved for use in the US and requires two shots, like the US-approved Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot.

The announcement of more vaccine gifting comes as other nations that are practicing “vaccine diplomacy” hit their own snags.

Chinese-made vaccines that helped make the Seychelles and Chile among the most vaccinated countries have proven to have low efficacy amid surges in new cases. Brazilian authorities last month accused Russia of including a live common-cold virus in doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, which otherwise showed high efficacy.

The CDC last week said that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear anti-COVID-19 face coverings when indoors — prompting businesses from Trader Joe’s to Starbucks to lift mask requirements for customers.

CDC data show about 60 percent of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot and 47 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. For the total population, including teenagers now eligible for shots, the US is 47 percent covered with at least one shot and 37 percent fully vaccinated.

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