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Health, Science and Environment

'It's The Right Thing To Do': Biden Announces U.S. To Share Vaccine Doses Globally

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S. is going to share its excess vaccine supply with the rest of the world. President Biden announced today that over the coming six weeks, the U.S. will send 20 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson abroad. This comes on top of 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet won FDA authorization for use domestically. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: President Biden's announcement comes as UNICEF and the World Health Organization have been clamoring for wealthier nations to share more of their vaccines abroad. As Biden touted that nearly 60% of American adults have received at least one shot, there are many countries in the world that haven't yet gotten even 1% of their populations vaccinated. The global shortage of vaccines has meant that even middle-income countries that are able to pay for inoculations simply can't get a hold of them. Biden announced the U.S. will be making available at least 20 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson in addition to sharing its entire stockpile of AstraZeneca.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This means over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. That represents 13% of the vaccines produced by the United States by the end of June. This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date, five times more than any other country, more than Russia and China.

BEAUBIEN: Biden stressed that sending these vaccines abroad isn't simply charity and that defeating the global pandemic is in the U.S.' national interest.

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BIDEN: Rampant disease and death in other countries can destabilize them. Those countries then pose a risk to us as well. New variants could arise overseas that could put us at greater risk. And we need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and to do the right thing of helping other people. It's the right thing to do.

BEAUBIEN: Biden says some of the doses will be going to the WHO-led COVAX program that aims to get at least 20% of people in low- and middle-income countries immunized this year. Leaders of COVAX, however, have said reaching that modest goal is in jeopardy. India was supposed to be one of the largest producers of vaccines for COVAX. But as case numbers there have skyrocketed, India's vaccine production has been used domestically and hasn't been available on the international market for months. Global health advocates applauded the move by the U.S. to release more of its vaccine internationally while also calling on other countries with high vaccination rates to follow suit.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAZ BUNDICK MEETS THE MATTSON 2'S "DISCO KID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.