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The US will send 13% of its vaccine supply overseas in the next 6 weeks, after the WHO said the world faces 'vaccine apartheid'

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Biden
President Joe Biden. Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

The US will send 80 million coronavirus vaccine doses, or 13% of its total supply, abroad by the end of June, President Joe Biden said on Monday. That's five times more doses than any other country has shared with the world so far.

The announcement came shortly after the World Health Organization criticized wealthy nations for stockpiling doses.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that wealthy countries had received 83% of the world's vaccine supply despite making up just 53% of the world's population. At an event on Monday, Tedros called the situation "vaccine apartheid."

Biden, too, emphasized the need to share more doses with the world.

"We want to lead the world with our values, with this demonstration of our innovation and ingenuity, and the fundamental decency of the American people," Biden said at White House briefing on Monday. "Just as in World War II, America was the arsenal of democracy, in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation is going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world."

But the US won't be redistributing doses that might have otherwise gone to eligible Americans.

The US expects to have have enough doses for everyone who's eligible (people ages 12 and up) within the next six weeks. As of tomorrow, Biden said, 60% of American adults will have already received at least one shot.

The Biden administration's plan is to allocate 20 million leftover doses of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna shots to other countries. The US will also donate 60 million AstraZeneca shots - all the AstraZeneca doses the country has produced thus far - overseas.

The Biden administration hasn't said which countries will receive the new shipments yet, but the US already promised 4 million AstraZeneca doses to Canada and Mexico.

AstraZeneca's shot is currently being administered in 165 countries. But the US Food and Drug Administration hasn't authorized the vaccine yet because it's waiting on the results of a domestic trial, which was delayed for nearly seven weeks in the fall because of an adverse reaction in a UK participant.

The US purchased 300 million doses of AstraZeneca's shot roughly a year ago as part of its strategy to buy up multiple vaccine candidates before it was known which ones would be effective. By buying lots of different vaccines ahead of time, the logic went, the US would ensure it had doses of an effective vaccine as early as possible.

Before Monday's announcement, the Biden administration had already pledged to donate the 60 million AstraZeneca doses, but the vaccines still need to pass an FDA safety review before they're shipped.

The US vaccine rollout is far ahead of other countries

india vaccine line
People wait to receive COVID-19 vaccines at HB Kanwatia Hospital in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, on April 11, 2021. Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Biden made his announcement at a moment when the US outbreak appears to be turning a corner: For the first time in the pandemic, coronavirus cases are declining in all 50 states. Coronavirus deaths are also at their lowest level since April 2020, Biden said. The CDC reported 415 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday.

But many public-health experts have warned that the US will continue to be vulnerable to future outbreaks if other countries are only vaccinating their populations at low levels. India and Russia, for instance, have vaccinated just around 10% of their populations, while Japan has vaccinated less than 4%.

As long as the coronavirus is spreading, it can mutate - so new variants may continue to arise. Though current vaccines seem to hold up well against existing variants, public-experts worry that a future variant could be far more resistant to vaccine protection.

"We know that America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control," Biden said on Monday.

Because of this, some experts even think the US should help other countries vaccinate their residents before immunizing its own teenagers.

"To get back to 'normal,' we need to immunize our younger people," Janet Englund, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children's Hospital, previously told Insider. But she added that "if we don't take care of the rest of the world, it's going to be a temporary fix."

Read the original article on Business Insider