The Biden administration on Monday downplayed the prospect of sharing coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying it is focused first on getting its own population protected against a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
The remarks by White House press secretary Jen Psaki came hours before Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask President Joe Biden to consider sharing some of its COVID-19 vaccine supply.
“The administration’s focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated. And once we accomplish that objective we’re happy to discuss further steps,” Psaki said at a White House news conference.
The two leaders are due to hold a virtual meeting later on Monday that is also likely to encompass immigration and trade.
Mexico has been frustrated by bottlenecks in supply and raised concerns that wealthy countries are hoarding vaccines.
According to Reuters reporting, Mexico would aim to pay back Washington once pharmaceutical companies have delivered on their orders.
Mexican magazine Proceso said Lopez Obrador had asked Biden for help on vaccines in January.
“We’d like to get an answer on a request that we’ve already made … about the vaccines,” Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference on Monday. “Provided he’s of the view the matter should be addressed. We must be respectful.”