Conflict grows between the US and its allies over the supply of vaccines –

Conflict grows between the US and its allies over the supply of vaccines

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s administration is stockpiling tens of millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine whose authorization in the United States remains uncertain, frustrating American allies who say those doses should now be used to save lives abroad.

The standoff is part of a growing global debate about who should have access to hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines that pharmaceutical companies are producing in the U.S. In addition to generating ill will, Biden’s insistence on oversupply for The US is potentially creating new opportunities for geopolitical rivals Russia and China.

A two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine has received emergency clearance from the European Union and the World Health Organization, but not from the US Now, US partners are pressuring Biden to release its supply, noting that the administration has lined up enough doses of three already licensed vaccines. to cover all American adults by the end of May and the entire US population at the end of July.

AstraZeneca says that vaccines produced in the US are “owned” by the US government and that shipping them abroad would require approval from the White House.

“We understand that other governments may have contacted the US government about donating doses of AstraZeneca, and we have asked the US government to carefully consider these requests,” said Gonzalo Viña, a spokesman for AstraZeneca, in a statement.

Although the 27-nation European Union is eager to relaunch a more fruitful transatlantic relationship after Trump’s crippling presidency, the issue of vaccines is proving to be a thorny issue, with some in Europe seeing it as a continuation of the former. President Donald Trump. “America First” approach.

Ambassadors from EU member states discussed the challenge this week. The German government said on Friday it was in contact with US officials about the supply of vaccines, but stressed that the European Commission has the upper hand when it comes to procuring vaccines for member states.

Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have asked representatives to discuss supply chains in vaccine production.

“Hopefully, we will be in a position on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that sufficient quantities of vaccine doses are distributed according to schedule to complete vaccination campaigns,” said EU commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer. .

More than 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are stored in the US for use here.

“We want to be oversupplied and prepared,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday so that Americans can still get vaccinated quickly in case of unforeseen problems with the existing production schedule.

“We have not provided doses of the United States government to anyone,” he said.

When asked about the stored vaccine, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said: “We have a small inventory of AstraZeneca, so if it is approved, we can deliver that inventory to the American people. as quickly as possible. “He said the United States was following the same procedure that it used for the vaccines already licensed.

Drug manufacturers that received federal assistance to develop or expand vaccine manufacturing had to sell their first doses to the U.S. In the case of AstraZeneca, whose vaccine was initially expected to be the first to receive emergency federal authorization, the government ordered 300 million doses. enough for 150 million Americans, before problems with the vaccine’s clinical trial halted approval.

The company said this month that it believes it will have approximately 30 million doses available to the US government by the end of March and an additional 20 million by the end of April.

As foreign regulators have moved forward with the injection, the United States has not abandoned its contractual claim on the initial doses produced in the United States.

That policy has also come under fire from neighbors the United States, Canada and Mexico, who have been forced to search for vaccines made on a different continent, rather than crossing the border. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has bought enough doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to inoculate 150 million more people than the US population by the end of the year.

The United States also ordered 110 million doses of Novavax vaccine, which is expected to apply for an emergency clearance next month.

AstraZeneca’s 30,000-person US trial didn’t complete enrollment until January. The company has given no indication of when initial results might be ready beyond an executive telling Congress last month that he hoped it would be “soon.”

The European Union, amid its own vaccine rollout, seems increasingly resigned to the Biden administration maintaining control of US doses.

The EU also disagrees with AstraZeneca, because the company is delivering far fewer doses to the block than it had promised. Of the initial order of 80 million in the first quarter of this year, the company will struggle to deliver half.

Despite shortages in the country and often being accused of vaccine protectionism, the 27-nation bloc has allowed the export of more than 34 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in recent weeks, including 953,723 to the United States. .

Meanwhile, Russia and China have used their domestically produced vaccines as a strategic lever.

China has promised roughly 500 million doses to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. Four of China’s many vaccine manufacturers say they will be able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year.

Russia has shipped millions of doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to countries around the world, even when it vaccinates its own population. Analysts say the goal of this vaccine diplomacy is to reinforce Russia’s image as a scientific, technological and benevolent powerhouse, especially when other countries face shortages of COVID-19 vaccines because richer nations are acquiring Western-made versions.

Israel, which has vaccinated more than half its population with Pfizer vaccines produced in Europe, has also tried to use vaccine diplomacy to reward allies.

Biden has moved for the US to contribute financially to the COVAX alliance backed by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, which will help share the vaccine with more than 90 low- and middle-income countries, but the US. You have not yet agreed to share any doses. .


Casert and Petrequin reported from Brussels. Danika Kirka in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed.


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