President Joe Biden’s administration has confirmed it will be sending roughly four million of the country’s unused doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada.
The plan comes as dozens of countries resumed its use of AstraZeneca vaccinations after having temporarily suspended the jabs following reports of mostly young patients suffering from severe clotting disorders and rare types of strokes shortly after receiving it.
“We’re able to announce that we are lending a portion of our releasable AstraZeneca vaccines to Mexico and to Canada,” Jeffrey Zients, the White House co-ordinator for the COVID-19 response, announced on March 18. “This action will allow our neighbours to meet a critical vaccination need in their countries, providing more protection immediately across the North American continent.”
AstraZeneca has not yet been authorized in the United States but has been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The vaccines are part of a stockpile of seven million available doses that have accumulated while AstraZeneca continues its U.S. clinical trials before it can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Biden’s latest plan to allow the export of U.S.-made vaccine would mark the first time the administration has agreed to do so. However, under the agreement, the countries must return any excess doses and exchange doses of vaccines—either AstraZeneca or a different one—in the future.
“To be clear: This loan will not reduce the available supply of vaccines to Americans. The doses we are loaning are not approved for use in the United States. No American will be without a vaccine because of this action,” Zients added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that Mexico will receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine while Canada is set to receive 1.5 million doses.
The plan is still being finalized but the vaccines would be delivered in “short order” once the agreement was completed, officials told Reuters.
Over the past week, more than 20 countries, including Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and others, had suspended their use of the vaccine following reports of blood clots in some patients who received it.
On Thursday, the European Union’s drug regulatory agency said that the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t increase the overall incidence of blood clots and that the benefits of using it outweigh the possible risks.
In a statement, the European Medicines Agency said that a preliminary review of a signal of blood clots in people vaccinated with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca had confirmed that “the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots (thromboembolic events) in those who receive it,”
However, the agency noted that “the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, i.e. low levels of blood platelets (elements in the blood that help it to clot) with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST).”
The announcement prompted a number of European countries, including France, Italy and Germany, to restart vaccinations on Friday.
Meanwhile, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands said they will resume the vaccines next week, though Spain said it might exclude certain groups to minimize any danger.
The FDA has so far authorized emergency use of three separate vaccines for Americans from drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, with the three companies aiming to deliver enough vaccines to vaccinate 400 million people by the end of July.
Despite a number of foreign nations facing vaccine shortages and delivery delays, the Biden administration is yet to announce plans to share any of its Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.