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26 Apr, 2021 19:40

US to share up to 60mn doses of AstraZeneca jab with other countries ‘when available,’ White House says

US to share up to 60mn doses of AstraZeneca jab with other countries ‘when available,’ White House says

The US will be sending its supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine Vaxzevria to other Covid-hit nations, a senior White House adviser has confirmed. The jab has not been approved by American regulators for use in the US.

"US to release 60 million AstraZeneca doses to other countries as they become available," Andy Slavitt, a senior Covid response adviser to the White House, announced in a tweet on Monday.

Anticipating criticism that Washington could have acted earlier in providing the crucial vaccines to other countries struggling to inoculate their populations against Covid-19, the adviser pointed out that "at this time there are still very few [AstraZeneca doses] available. No real time has been lost."

Slavitt didn't name the countries that will be getting America's tranche of the vaccine or offer a timeline, but the Biden administration promised last month that it would share some four million AstraZeneca doses with neighboring Mexico and Canada.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that the US will only begin supplying other countries with its AstraZeneca doses after the regulator confirms that the jab meets its quality standards.

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The UK-Swedish vaccine has still not been approved by the FDA, with the US instead banking on the vaccines from American firms Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson in its Covid-19 inoculation drive. In March, the US National Institutes of Health issued a statement expressing concern that AstraZeneca "may have included outdated information" from its clinical trial of the vaccine, "which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data."

When questioned by Reuters on the White House plan to send its cache of Vaxzevria abroad, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman only said that "decisions to send US supply to other countries are made by the US government."

The international rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab has been marred by production shortages and reports of unusual blood clots among a small cohort of its recipients. Despite the side effect being very rare, several countries reacted to the reports by temporarily suspending their use of the UK-Swedish immunization, while awaiting further research. Some, including Britain, have placed age limitations on who should receive it. Denmark was the first EU state to completely give up on the vaccine, in mid-April.

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The World Health Organization insists that AstraZeneca is a "perfectly good vaccine," with both the UN agency and the EU drugs regulators repeatedly saying the benefits of the jab still outweigh the risks.

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