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Biden to send COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in first export of shots

President Biden at his desk
President Biden signs the coronavirus relief package March 11 in the Oval Office.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

The U.S. is planning to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is in the process of finalizing efforts to distribute 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a “loan.” The details are still being worked out.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population,” Psaki said at the daily briefing. But she added that “ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is a mission-critical step … to ending the pandemic.”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S., but the company is expected to share results of its late-stage U.S. study and apply for clearance in the coming weeks. The World Health Organization, European regulators and dozens of countries have signed off on the shots based on studies done in the U.K. and elsewhere.

Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the U.S. should it receive emergency use authorization, sparking an international outcry that lifesaving doses are being withheld when they could be used elsewhere.

Over the last week, several nations suspended their use of the vaccine following reports of clots in a few dozen of the millions of people across Europe who have gotten the shot. On Thursday, Europe’s medicines regulator said that the shots do not increase the overall risk of clots and that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Still, the debate raised fears that the safety question would undermine confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is key to immunization efforts in several countries.

Psaki said multiple nations have requested access to the U.S. vaccines, but she didn’t have anything to add on further distributions.

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Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said via Twitter that Mexico was receiving the vaccine as a result of the conversation between President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador this month. “Good news!” he wrote.

“God bless America; they are coming to our rescue,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the leader of Canada’s most populous province. He thanked Biden for his willingness to share the vaccines.

“And once I get them I will call you a champion, but I need to get the delivery first, so thank you. I appreciate it. We’ve been waiting. That’s what true neighbors do. They help each other in a crisis,” he said. “We will take all the vaccines you can give us, so that’s fabulous news.”

The Biden administration has said that once U.S. citizens are vaccinated, the next step is ensuring Canada and Mexico are able to manage the pandemic so the borders can reopen.

Although Canada’s economy is tightly interconnected with the U.S., Washington hasn’t allowed any of the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses made in the U.S. to be exported until now, and Canada has had to turn to Europe and Asia.


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