US to share AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries

The White House said Monday that the US government plans to share its inventory of as many as 60 million American-made doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria with the rest of the world. Press secretary Jen Psaki said the US is confident in its current supply of other available vaccines, and given that AstraZeneca's candidate is not yet authorised for use in the country, "we do not need to use [Vaxzevria] in our fight against COVID-19 over the next few months."

Coronavirus vaccines currently authorised in the US for emergency use are Pfizer and BioNTech's BNT162b2 and Moderna's mRNA-1273, both of which are given as two doses, as well as Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Ad26.COV2.S. Vaccinations with Johnson & Johnson's product were given the green light to resume late last week following a brief pause while authorities investigated cases of rare, but serious blood clotting events in some people.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has not yet filed for FDA authorisation of Vaxzevria, but has already manufactured millions of doses in the US under a federal contract. The company recently reported pivotal Phase III data from a US study showing that Vaxzevria was 76% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, although it has been linked to similar rare blood-clotting cases as Ad26.COV2.S.

Help for India as it battles infection surge

The AstraZeneca doses will be released "as they become available," according to a tweet by White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt, although it remains unclear how many would be sent to India as it grapples with a surge in infections. President Joe Biden said Sunday that the US would immediately ship raw materials to India to produce AstraZeneca's vaccine there, where it goes by the name Covishield and is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The Indian company has been urging Biden to lift an embargo on US exports of raw materials that it said was hurting its production of COVID-19 vaccines. Last month, the US administration said it would loan roughly 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, with the expectation that the countries would send doses to the US later.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has declined to comment on whether it was consulted on the US government's decision to share its Vaxzevria doses. "The doses are part of AstraZeneca's supply commitments to the US government," a spokeswoman for the company stated, adding that "decisions to send US supply to other countries are made by the US government."

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