While the US has a glut of vaccines and many people have to be coaxed in to getting it with various offers of gifts and lotteries, many other countries are desperately short of vaccines even as their covid-19 cases surge. So I was glad to see Joe Biden announce that the US will share some of the unused vaccines. The move is long overdue.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will donate 75% of its unused COVID-19 vaccines to the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, acting as more Americans have been vaccinated and global inequities have become more glaring.
Of the first tranche of 25 million doses, the White House said about 19 million will go to COVAX, with approximately 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia and 5 million for Africa. The doses mark a substantial — and immediate — boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.
Overall, the White House aims to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through COVAX. But 25% of the nation’s excess will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
I hear from family and friends in Sri Lanka that they are experiencing both a surge in the disease and a shortage of vaccines. Some people have received the first shot of the AstroZeneca vaccine but there is not enough to give them the second so they are waiting. Meanwhile the country has gone into a major lockdown as death rates have risen to about 40 per day, which when adjusted for population size, would correspond to about 600 per day in the US, and that too is likely an undercount.
With the WHO granting approval to the Chinese Sinovac, one hopes that the global shortage will ease.
Meanwhile, death and infection rates in India are decreasing, albeit slowly, so there’s some hope there. But the death and infection rates in Brazil seem to have plateaued at a high level, which is worrisome. The US, Brazil, and India are the countries with the highest totals of cases.