WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Monday that his administration will send an additional 20 million Covid-19 vaccines abroad by the end of June, including for the first time vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States.
"Our vaccination program has led the world, and today we are taking an additional step to help the world," Biden said in a speech at the White House.
"No ocean is wide enough, no wall is high enough to keep us safe. Rampant disease and death in other countries can destabilize them — those countries — and pose a risk to us as well," he added.
The 20 million doses of U.S.-approved shots are in addition to Biden's previous commitment to give 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, meaning that 80 million doses are expected to be shared with the world within the next few weeks.
It is unclear which countries will receive the doses. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the administration will announce more in the coming days about how they are deciding where to send vaccines.
The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for use in the U.S., while AstraZeneca is not. In March the U.S. shared 4 million doses of its AstraZeneca stockpile with Mexico and Canada.
The announcement comes as the demand for vaccines in the U.S. is declining, and as the fast pace of the vaccine rollout in the U.S. and other wealthy countries has drawn scrutiny from critics noting the contrast with poorer countries struggling to obtain vaccines.
Biden said Monday that nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one shot, and for the first time since the pandemic began, Covid-19 cases are down in all 50 states.
Biden has prioritized vaccinating everyone in the United States before offering doses to other countries. But pressure to play a larger role in the global vaccination effort has intensified as India and South America struggle with surges in Covid-19 cases and as concerns rise that China's and Russia's strategy of selling or donating their vaccines to other countries has given them an opportunity to expand their global influence.
"This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date, five times more. More than Russia and China, which have donated 15 million doses," Biden said Monday.
"We will share these vaccines in the service of ending the pandemic everywhere. And we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries," he continued.
Still, Biden acknowledged that 80 million doses will only cover a small fraction of the global population and that the U.S. alone could not provide enough supply for the world. Biden said he would coordinate with U.S. allies to develop a global strategy to end the pandemic and expected to announce progress on this effort at the Group of Seven summit in June.
Biden also said he was putting Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, in charge of leading the efforts to address the pandemic globally. Zients will work with the National Security Council and other agencies on this effort, Biden said.