With the United States ending President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccines weeks before its target date, the White House said the nation is now able to help provide neighbors Canada and Mexico with millions of life-saving shots.
The Biden administration on Thursday revealed the outlines of a plan to “lend” a limited number of vaccines to Canada and Mexico when the president announced that the United States was about to meet its 100-day injection goal “well ahead of schedule.”
“I am proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have achieved our goal,” said Biden. He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the United States is about to have enough of the three currently approved vaccines to cover the entire adult population in just 10 weeks.
In response to Biden’s comments, the White House said it was finalizing plans to ship a total of 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots. Press secretary Jen Psaki said the details of the “loan” were still being worked out, but 2.5 million doses would go to Mexico and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada.
“Our first priority is still to vaccinate the American people,” Psaki said. But she added that “ensuring that our neighbors can contain the virus is a mission-critical step, it is mission-critical to stop the pandemic.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved for use in the United States but has been made by the World Health Organization. Tens of millions of doses have been stored in the United States awaiting authorization for emergency use, and there has been an international outcry that life-saving vaccines are being retained when they can be used elsewhere. The White House said only 7 million of the AstraZeneca doses are ready for delivery.
The initial dosage manufactured in the United States is owned by the federal government under the terms of agreements reached with drug manufacturers, and the Biden administration has met calls from allies around the world to release the AstraZeneca shots for immediate use. Biden has also made direct requests from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to buy vaccines produced in the United States.
Global public health advocates say rich countries like the United States need to do much more to stop the spread of the pandemic. On Thursday, the World Health Organization published a report that fewer than 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Africa to date. This is equivalent to what the United States administers in a few days.
Biden moved to get the United States to contribute financially to the COVAX alliance, which is supported by the UN and the World Health Organization, which will share vaccines with more than 90 low- and middle-income countries, but the United States has not yet committed to sharing any doses.
From his early days in office, Biden has established clear – and achievable – measures of US success, whether vaccinations or school openings, as part of an obvious strategy for deterioration and then overdelivery. Aides believe that exceeding his goals gives confidence to the government following the Trump administration’s sometimes unimaginative rhetoric about the virus.
The dose target of 100 million was not announced until December 8, days before the United States even had an approved vaccine against COVID-19, let alone the three who have now been granted an emergency permit. Still, it was usually seen within reach, if it was optimistic.
When Biden was inaugurated on January 20, the United States had already administered 20 million shots at a rate of about 1 million per day, which led to complaints at the time that Biden’s targets were not ambitious enough. He quickly revised it up to 150 million doses in his first 100 days.
Now the United States injects an average of about 2.2 million doses every day – and the rate is likely to increase dramatically later this month in connection with an expected increase in vaccine supply.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injections of 96 million doses have been reported to the authority since Biden’s inauguration, but these reports delay the actual date of administration. Vaccination trends indicated that Biden would break 100 million on Thursday, and the figures are likely to be confirmed by the CDC as soon as Friday.
The president has gone to speed up deliveries of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as to increase the number of places to get shots and people who can administer them, focusing on increasing the country’s ability to inject doses that delivery restrictions raise.
The risk of setting too rosy expectations is that an administration can be defined as not meeting them, for example in May 2020, when President Donald Trump said that the nation had “won” over the virus.
At that time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths due to the virus. This week, the US death toll peaked at 538,000. Trump’s lax approach and lack of credibility also contributed to poor compliance with public safety rules among the American public.