By Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez, CNN
(CNN) – The United States plans to share millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine with other countries in the coming months, the White House announced on Monday.
“Today we announced that the administration is looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses during the next few months,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during Monday’s White House press briefing.
Psaki indicated that the decision was made because of the US’ available supply of other Covid-19 vaccines approved for use. The US has tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines stockpiled but none have been used because it has not yet been granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States has already authorized and that is available in large quantities, including two two-dose vaccines and one one-dose vaccine, and given that AstraZeneca is not authorized for use in the United States, we do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against Covid over the next few months,” Psaki said.
Psaki said on Monday that the FDA will conduct a quality review of doses before they leave the country and that the US’ plan to distribute the vaccine is still being developed. The White House has not said which countries will get the vaccine.
Multiple world leaders have pressed Biden to share doses as other countries have struggled to ramp up vaccinations. One of those countries is India, which is currently going through one of the worst Covid surges in the world. Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on Monday, but a readout from the call released by the White House did not mention sharing vaccines.
The Associated Press was first to report on the administration’s plan to distribute AstraZeneca doses with other countries.
It could be some time before other countries receive these vaccines, the White House cautioned Monday.
“Just to be clear, right now, we have zero doses available of AstraZeneca,” Psaki told reporters. Following a FDA quality review, there could be 10 million available in the coming weeks, but it will likely be May or June before closer to 60 million are finished. “So, this is not immediate.”
Countries have been eagerly petitioning the US for shipments of vaccines as doses are snapped up by wealthier nations. Biden administration officials have described near-daily phone calls from allies—poor and rich alike—seeking help securing vaccine doses.
The US is expected to have a surplus of vaccines in the hundreds of millions of doses. Some of those doses have already been sent to Mexico and Canada.
But US “vaccine diplomacy” has been sharply limited by concerns among Biden administration officials that unforeseen factors may necessitate a stockpile of doses, including requiring boosters, the spread of variants, and the still-uncertain nature of which vaccine works best among children.
Political concerns have also weighed on officials, who are wary of sending doses abroad before every American can access them.
“We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using. We got to make sure they are safe to be sent. And we hope to be able to be of some hope and value to countries around the world,” Biden said earlier this month.
Other countries like Russia and China—regimes where the political downside of sending vaccines abroad have little bearing on leaders’ decision-making—have far outpaced the US in distributing vaccines, expanding their influence in places like Southeast Asia.