Biden administration to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with Canada, Mexico

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is working to finalize plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House said Thursday.

About 2.5 million doses would go to Mexico and 1.5 million doses would go to Canada as U.S. regulators wait on the company to provide further data on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

The move to release some of the U.S. stockpile, which comes as the government confronts a growing humanitarian crisis on the southern border, would not affect the country's ability to have enough vaccine doses for all Americans by May, according to the White House.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing at the White House. “The reality is the pandemic knows no borders and ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”

The deal was first reported by Reuters.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be cleared for use in the United States, though it is already being administered in Europe and a number of other countries, some of which have asked the U.S. to share some of its stockpiled doses. The U.S. currently has 7 million doses in its inventory, according to Psaki.

Administration officials had said recently that there were no plans to share doses from its stockpile, citing a desire to be overprepared in case of manufacturing disruptions, the emergence of new variants, and the potential to vaccinate children starting as early as the fall. But Psaki said Thursday that it was also in the best interest of the U.S. to ensure the virus was controlled on America's northern and southern borders.

The decision to share doses with the U.S.’ neighbors comes amid questions over the vaccine’s safety by European officials. The European Medicines Agency said Thursday that the vaccine was safe for use after a number of countries, including Germany, France and Italy, suspended it over concerns about blood clots in some recipients.

That came after European regulators said Tuesday that they reviewed new information and found there was “no indication” that there was any link between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and blood clotting. They added that the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine is cleared by U.S. regulators, the country would receive a total of 300 million doses from the company, including the 7 million the U.S. already has.