While the EU sues AstraZeneca for failing to honor its vaccine delivery commitments, Washington is using its wealth of AstraZeneca jabs to make a generous donation to those economies that are less fortunate than its own.
Of course, the US and de facto international vaccine czar Bill Gates are largely responsible for policy decisions that denied a "people's vaccine" - an open-source project that would make vaccine development free to all nations without enriching drug giants like Pfizer, J&J and Moderna. But in an effort to appear magnanimous, the White House has reportedly told the Associated Press that it plans to give away its entire stock of AstraZeneca jabs, just as soon as they are cleared by US regulators in a federal safety review.
As many as 60M doses will be exported in the coming months to countries around the world.
The announcement, which follows a safety scandal in Europe involving rare but deadly blood clots in patients with low platelet counts, adds to the pledge of 1 million doses to Mexico and Canada. Polls show demand for J&J vaccines in the US has tumbled following the safety scare earlier this month, and given that the AstraZeneca jabs share the same suspect adenovirus platform, it's fair to assume there won't be much demand for the AstraZeneca jabs when/if they're approved in the US.
In fact, the US vaccine rollout has continued to slow over the past week, leaving some US states with a surplus of unused vaccines - and this is even before the J&J jab has come into widespread use.
About 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have been produced but have yet to pass review by the FDA to "meet its expectations for product quality," White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients.
"Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the U.S. already has and that have been authorized by the FDA, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not authorized for use in the U.S., we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next several months," Zients said. "Therefore the US is looking at options to share the AstraZeneca doses with other countries as they become available."
Zients added that the US's "gold standard" approval process could be finished in the coming weeks. About 50M more doses are in various stages of production and could be available to ship in May and June pending FDA sign-off.
As of Monday, more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been distributed around the world. The US has yet to finalize where the AstraZeneca doses will go, Zients said. Neighbors Mexico and Canada have asked the Biden administration to share more doses, while dozens of other countries are so desperate for more supplies of vaccines (despite the safety risks that, as the WHO has noted again and again, are far outweighed by the societal benefits, at least in theory) they're fighting a battle against patent protections at the WTO.