If the US has leftover vaccines once every American has had the opportunity to get a jab, the Biden administration will share its inventory with the rest of the world, the president said on Wednesday.
“The surplus will – if we have a surplus, we're going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday, shortly after announcing his government had secured a deal for the purchase of another 100m doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Mr Biden was responding to a question from a reporter when he made the promise to share any surplus of Covid vaccine doses with other countries.
The president emphasised that helping poorer countries inoculate their populations from Covid would help mitigate the risk to Americans traveling or doing business abroad.
“This is not something that can be stopped by a fence, no matter how high you build a fence or a wall. So we're not going to be ultimately safe until the world is safe,” Mr Biden said. “So we're going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but then we're then going to try to help the rest of the world.”
The administration announced last week that it had purchased enough vaccine doses to cover every American adult by the end of May.
The purchase of an extra 100m single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be enough to cover all American children and young adults, the administration has indicated.
Mr Biden has been steadfast in his insistence that the US must ensure every American who wants a vaccine has a chance to get one first before the government begins sharing its supply with the rest of the world.
The president denied an entreaty last week from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for the US to share its vaccine supply with its poorer neighbour to the south.
The US is currently administering shots at a rate of more than than 2.1m per day and has inoculated more than 60m people.
As of last week, Mexico had vaccinated 2.5m of its citizens in total.
The White House is hoping that the $1.9trn Covid relief package Mr Biden plans to sign into law on Friday will help expedite the government’s vaccine distribution effort, as well as provide more resources for testing and state- and locally-run programmes combating the pandemic.
That relief package, the second most expensive bill in US history, also issues $1,400 stimulus checks to most American taxpayers, extends a key federal unemployment aid programme, and provides $350bn in aid to state and local governments on the frontlines of the pandemic.
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