Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday March 20, 2021
Biden Takes First Jab At Vaccine Diplomacy, Sharing Doses With Mexico, Canada
Under pressure to share AstraZeneca vaccine doses not yet being used to inoculate Americans, the Biden administration is finalizing plans to loan millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada. It’s a first foray into vaccine diplomacy for the Biden administration, weeks after global competitors China and Russia began using vaccine doses to exert influence.
The U.S. government has contracts to buy hundreds of millions more vaccine dosesthan there are people living here, but with most of those doses not yet delivered and Americans still struggling to get vaccination appointments, the Biden administration has so far focused on making sure Americans get vaccinated first.
While AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been approved for use in many other countries, including Mexico and Canada, it still hasn’t been given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So, the White House announced it is working through the technicalities to loan 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million doses to Canada from its stockpile of 7 million doses.
“This action will allow our neighbors to meet a critical vaccination need in their countries, providing more protection immediately across the North American continent,” said Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus coordinator.
While the United States has vaccinated more than 12% of its population according to Johns Hopkins data, Canada has vaccinated only 1.7% of its population and Mexico only 0.5%.
Zients said the loans will be repaid through dose deliveries from AstraZeneca later in the year. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said many countries have asked to borrow from the stockpile, but said it’s not yet clear whether other requests may be granted.
After briefly pausing vaccinations with AstraZeneca in Europe due to concerns about blood clots developing, health officials there this week announced they believe the vaccine to be safe and effective and resumed administering the vaccine. (NPR)