President Biden said Monday the U.S. will share 20 million doses of its approved COVID-19 vaccines with the rest of the world after it receives June deliveries from a trio of drugmakers and ensures that no American is still waiting for the shots.
It is the first time Mr. Biden pledged vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to other parts of the world.
The development brings the total amount of COVID-19 doses pledged for export to 80 million.
Previously, the U.S. said it would share 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries once they pass checks by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine is being used elsewhere but hasn’t been approved in the U.S.
“This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date. Five times than any other country, more than Russia and China, which have donated 15 million doses,” Mr. Biden said of the new total.
Speaking from the White House East Room, Mr. Biden said the U.S. will work with COVAX, a large vaccine-sharing alliance, and characterized America as the “arsenal of vaccines” as experts say he needs to do more to counter vaccine-diplomacy by rival superpowers.
Scientists have pressed the Biden administration to share more of its vaccine largesse with the rest of the world, or at least form a more comprehensive plan, as poorer nations struggle to get their rollouts off the ground.
They’ll have to wait until at least next month under the steps outlined by Mr. Biden on Monday. He said he will huddle with leaders on additional virus-fighting efforts at the Group of 7 nations summit from June 11 to June 13 in the United Kingdom.
Aggressive variants, in particular, pose a threat as the virus pings around the world and evolves in hard-hit places such as India.
“We know America will never be fully safe unless the pandemic that’s raging globally is fully under control,” Mr. Biden said.
Public Citizen, a progressive consumer advocacy group, said the commitment was “akin to tossing a bucket of water at a raging inferno.”
“If India were to receive all 20 million doses, it would vaccinate less than 1% of its population, beyond what it has already,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Communities around the world have no idea when, or if, the vaccine they desperately need to protect their people from death and further suffering from the coronavirus will arrive. Dose donations are welcome, but they are no substitute for a plan of scale and ambition to end the pandemic.”
At home, Mr. Biden wants 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, the date he circled as an entry point to normalcy. He expects data to show the country has reached 60% of adults by Tuesday.
Mr. Biden also said COVID-19 cases are trending down in all 50 states alongside the rollout.
He said there may be flare-ups from the virus but he believes an increase in vaccinations will keep the progress going.
“States with low vaccination rates may see that rate go up, see this progress reversed. Ultimately those who are not vaccinated will end up paying the price,” he said. “It will be a tragedy and a needless one to see COVID cases among those who do not get vaccinated go up. We’re not done fighting this virus. We still have tens of millions left to vaccinate.”
Nearly half of the overall U.S. population — 47% — has received at least one dose of a vaccine and 37% is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A person is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna versions.
The CDC on Thursday said fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask outdoors or indoors in most settings, shocking state officials and business leaders who weren’t given any warning of the change and had to adjust or maintain their policies.
Mr. Biden said some people might want to keep wearing a mask and some businesses will maintain their mask policies.
“Let’s all be kind and respectful of one another,” Mr. Biden said.