Biden Plans to Send 4 Million Astra Doses to Mexico, Canada

President Joe Biden’s administration plans to send about 4 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to neighboring Mexico and Canada, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The deal emerged alongside an announcement by Mexico that it will crack down on the flow of migrants across the U.S. border.

The vaccine export plan is under assessment, Psaki said, and would involve the U.S. sending Mexico 2.5 million doses and Canada 1.5 million doses. It would represent the first known exports by the U.S. of domestically produced vaccines.

Biden has been under pressure to use its stockpile to help its neighbors, which have been struggling to obtain supplies. The administration has said the U.S. plans to acquire more doses than it needs to inoculate its population in case there’s a need for booster shots, or for other contingencies. Biden has said there will be enough vaccine by the end of May for all adults in the U.S.

Psaki said Thursday that the U.S. government has about 7 million available doses of the vaccine. “With the importance of helping stop the spread in other countries, we are assessing how we can loan doses,” Psaki said. “That is our aim. It’s not fully finalized yet.”

Canadian officials expressed elation.

“God bless America, they’re coming to our rescue, thank God,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference. “I’ve been bugging Trump, I’ve been bugging Biden. They must get sick of Doug Ford asking for help but our greatest partner, our greatest trading partner, our greatest friend in the world.”

In a tweet, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard confirmed there was a deal and said he would share details about it on Friday.

Separately, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday Mexico will limit travel across its northern and southern borders to essential activities starting March 19, the first such move since the pandemic began a year ago. The government will also deploy sanitary control measures on both borders, aiming to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the ministry said in a tweet. Measures will be in place until April 21.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry said the border agreement was “not part of the deal” for the U.S. to share vaccines and that the two policies are on “different tracks.”

Another U.S. official, asked about any link between the border restrictions and the vaccine deal, declined to comment specifically. The two nations share a common goal to reduce migration to Mexico and to the U.S. and they have agreed to take steps to stem the influx of unaccompanied children and others traveling north, the official said.

Biden has been under fire domestically as a rising number of unaccompanied minors cross the border into the U.S., straining capacity to house and process their cases.

The AstraZeneca vaccine -- a 2-dose regimen -- is not yet authorized in the U.S., but the Biden administration has an accumulating stockpile as the company works to fulfill a U.S. order ahead of potential clearance from regulators.

The U.S. had until now declined requests from other countries to share its stockpile of doses. The country -- under Biden and former President Donald Trump -- has ordered enough vaccines for 500 million people, or 650 million if the AstraZeneca order is included. AstraZeneca has not yet sought U.S. authorization.

The U.S. government is working with the company to explore the feasibility of sharing the doses, one of the officials said. Reuters reported the plan earlier.

The move could raise liability concerns if shots are used outside the U.S. For instance, a U.S. government contract with Pfizer Inc. includes a clause that the U.S. “may not use, or authorize the use of, any products or materials provided under this agreement, unless such use occurs in the United States and is protected from liability.” It’s not clear whether the AstraZeneca contract includes similar clauses.

Biden has pledged to have enough vaccine by the end of May to inoculate all U.S. adults, a promise based on production of just the three shots already authorized -- from Pfizer, Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. That means sharing AstraZeneca shots wouldn’t change the current U.S. timeline for its own vaccinations.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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