Biden to send surplus AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Mexico, Canada

The Biden administration plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House confirmed Thursday, a development that comes as the U.S. faces a surge of migrants at the southern border with Mexico.

Press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the plans, which were first reported by Reuters and The Washington Post, but said that they were not yet finalized.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population, but the reality is the pandemic knows no borders,” Psaki told reporters. “Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”

Psaki said that officials are working to finalize plans to give Mexico 2.5 million doses and give Canada 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet been authorized in the United States. She said that the U.S. has 7 million “releasable” doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in total and suggested the administration could share extras with other countries in the future.

The Biden administration has come under pressure from countries around the world to share its excess vaccines, particularly its stock of AstraZeneca, which is authorized or approved in more than 70 countries.

It’s not immediately clear if the doses will be donated outright, or loaned with the understanding that the countries will pay the U.S. back with doses in return.

Quid pro quo? The plans coincide with an effort by the administration to get a handle on the surge of migrants at the southern border. Asked Thursday whether the vaccine announcement had anything to do with conversations about addressing the border crisis, Psaki suggested the two issues were not related.

“There have been expectations set outside of, unrelated to any vaccine doses or requests for them that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border. And there have been requests, unrelated, for doses of these vaccines. Every relationship has multiple layers of conversations that are happening at the same time,” she said.