U.S. Misses Goal of 80M COVID Vaccines Sent to Other Countries by More Than Half

The U.S. missed President Joe Biden's goal of sending 80 million COVID-19 vaccines to other countries by the end of June by more than half.

Less than 24 million doses have been distributed to 10 countries by the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The Biden administration previously promised 50 countries and entities will receive the doses. They are ready to be sent but the White House said regulatory issues involving other nations are preventing the deliveries.

"What we've found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply — we have plenty of doses to share with the world — but this is a Herculean logistical challenge," said White House press secretary Jenn Psaki last week.

Biden announced his goal for distributing 80 million doses May 17 and said the operation "will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date — five times more than any other country — more than Russia and China."

Although Biden's goal was missed, the U.S. has still shared more vaccines with the world than Russia and China.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

President Joe Biden and His Wife Jill
The U.S. missed President Joe Biden's goal of sending 80 million COVID-19 doses to other countries by the end of June by more than half. In this photo, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, on July 1, 2021, as they travel to Surfside, Fla. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House says more doses will be sent in the coming days and stresses that Biden has done everything in his power to meet the commitment.

It's taking more time than anticipated to sort through a complex web of legal requirements, health codes, customs clearances, cold-storage chains, language barriers and delivery programs. Complicating matters even further is that no two shipments are alike.

One country requires an act of its Cabinet to approve the vaccine donation, others require inspectors to conduct their own safety checks on the U.S. doses, and still others have yet to develop critical aspects of their vaccine distribution plans to ensure the doses can reach people's arms before they spoil.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to share internal arrangements, said that as of Wednesday, all intended recipient countries had received formal U.S. offers of a specific number and type of vaccine, and all legal and logistical hurdles on the U.S. side had been cleared.

The White House declined to specify which nations were struggling with which local hurdles, saying it is working with recipient nations on an individual basis to remove obstacles to delivery.

It took months for the U.S. to get its domestic vaccination program running at full throttle, and officials noted that Biden only shifted the focus of the nation's COVID-19 response toward the global vaccination campaign less than two months ago.

Russia and China have at times sought to leverage their vaccines for geopolitical gain.

The 80 million doses are meant as a down payment on a far larger plan to purchase and donate 500 million vaccine doses for the world over the next year. That plan, relying on a purchase contract from Pfizer that will begin delivering doses in August, remains on track, officials said.

Last week the White House broadly outlined its plans for all 80 million doses, but it is not publicly releasing a list of how many and of what type of vaccines each recipient will get until the doses are on the way.

The U.S. recipients to date are Colombia (2.5 million Johnson & Johnson doses), Bangladesh (2.5 million Moderna), Peru (2 million Pfizer), Pakistan (2.5 million Moderna), Honduras (1.5 million Moderna), Brazil (3 million J&J), South Korea (1 million J&J), Taiwan (2.5 million Moderna), Canada (1 million Moderna, 1.5 million AstraZeneca) and Mexico (1.35 million J&J, 2.5 million AstraZeneca). All told, it's enough vaccine to fully protect 15.9 million people.

Biden initially committed to providing other nations with all 60 million U.S.-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S. but is widely approved around the world. The AstraZeneca doses have been held up for export by a two-month safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Given declining domestic demand for vaccine doses, the Biden administration expects to be able to meet the full 80 million commitment without the AstraZeneca doses, but rather from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines.

The U.S.-approved shots — particularly the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna — appear to be more effective than other available vaccines against the virus, especially emerging strains of the virus that are more contagious and harmful, like the Delta variant first identified in India.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks before signing several bills during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Although Biden's U.S. COVID vaccine donation goal was missed, the U.S. has still shared more vaccines with the world than Russia and China. Susan Walsh/AP Photo