U.S. sends less than half of 80 million promised vaccines by deadline

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The Biden administration failed to export 80 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June, as promised, but officials on Thursday said doses have been assigned to nations and will arrive once recipients clear bureaucratic hurdles.

Mr. Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, said the administration will have shipped 40 million doses by the end of the week.

“The remaining doses will be shipped in the coming weeks as countries complete their own domestic set of operational, regulatory and legal processes that are specific to each country,” he said.

Mr. Zients said the U.S. identified recipients and how many doses they will receive, so they’re waiting for final approval from the receiving nations.

Mr. Biden pledged to share 80 million doses from the U.S. stockpile. They will be shared with 46 countries and the African Union through bilateral agreements and COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing alliance.

The White House is using the donations to improve America’s standing on the world stage and compete with countries such as China, which is donating vaccines as a way to curry business deals and favor in parts of the world.

Nearly half of the U.S. population — 47% — is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but the rollout is stalling, so Mr. Biden is giving away excess doses.

Many vaccines require two doses, and experts say about 11 billion doses will be needed to vaccinate 70% of the global population.

Slightly more than 3 billion doses have been administered worldwide, or about 40 doses for every 100 people, according to a New York Times tracker, placing pressure on wealthy nations to do their part.

Mr. Biden pledged to buy an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to share with the rest of the world through the first half of 2022.

In the meantime, the administration is pleading with Americans to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, citing the fast-moving delta variant that could become dominant in the coming weeks.

“Communities that remaining unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She said 1,000 U.S. counties have vaccination rates of less than 30%, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest.

“In some of these areas, we are already seeing increasing rates of disease,” she said.

Mr. Biden wanted at least 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the July Fourth holiday. 

He will fall short. About 67% of adults have received a shot so far.

Even so, the president will hold a White House barbecue on Independence Day to celebrate progress against the pandemic. Some critics say it sends a mixed signal, as federal health officials urge parts of the country to remain cautious.

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