‘What true neighbors do’: Joe Biden plans to send COVID shots to Mexico, Canada

‘What true neighbors do’: Joe Biden plans to send COVID shots to Mexico, Canada

March 18, 2021

Washington: The US is planning to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots, the White House said Thursday.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is in the process of finalising efforts to distribute 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a “loan.” The details are still being worked out.

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the US population,” Psaki said at the daily briefing. But she added that “ensuring our neighbours can contain the virus is a mission critical step, is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”

Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after providing doses to customers in Toronto.Credit:AP

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorised for use in the US but has been by the World Health Organisation. Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the US should it receive emergency use authorisation, sparking an international outcry that lifesaving doses were being withheld when they could be used elsewhere.

AstraZeneca shots will represent the vast bulk of vaccines to be distributed in Australia. The vaccine rollout has been delayed in Europe after Germany, France, Italy and other nations halted its use over safety concerns the company says are unwarranted.

Psaki said multiple nations have requested access to the US vaccines, but she didn’t have anything to add on further distributions.

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said via Twitter that Mexico was receiving the vaccine as a result of the conversation between President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier this month. “Good news!” he wrote.

“God bless America they are coming to our rescue,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the leader of Canada’s most populous province. He thanked Biden for his willingness to share the vaccines.

“And once I get them I will call you a champion, but I need to get the delivery first, so thank you. I appreciate it. We’ve been waiting. That’s what true neighbours do. They help each other in a crisis,” he said. “We will take all the vaccines you can give us, so that’s fabulous news.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford.Credit:AP

The Biden administration has said that once US citizens are vaccinated, the next step is ensuring Canada and Mexico are able to manage the pandemic so the borders can reopen.

Although Canada’s economy is tightly interconnected with the US, Washington hasn’t allowed any of the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses made in America to be exported until now, and Canada has had to turn to Europe and Asia.

The vaccine supply chain difficulties have forced Canada to extend the time between the first shot and the second by up to four months so that everyone can be protected faster with the primary dose. The hope is to get all adults at least one shot by the end of June.

Canadian regulators have approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but acquiring them has proven difficult.

Canada ranks about 20th in the number of doses administered, with about 8 per cent of the adult population getting at least one shot. That compares with nearly 45 per cent in the Britain and 29.2 per cent in the US. While Mexico ranks about 10th in the number of doses administered, only just over 3 per cent of the adult population has gotten at least one shot.

AstraZeneca is among the vaccines that have received emergency approval in Mexico, and Mexico already has 870,000 doses of that vaccine. It also has Pfizer, SinoVac and Sputnik V for a total of more than 8 million doses.

One million doses of SinoVac arrived from Hong Kong on Thursday.

The US stockpiling of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been controversial with other allies as well. The 27-nation European Union had found it difficult to approach Biden on sharing supplies of the vaccine so the disease could be stopped overseas, which would not only help save lives but also improve global economic growth.

Fake vaccine

The negotiations over vaccines from the US come as Mexican customs officials seized vials of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine en route to Honduras that the Russian entity that bankrolled the vaccine’s development said on Thursday were fake.

The seizure came aboard a private plane in the Gulf coast state of Campeche, according to a statement from Mexico’s tax agency late on Wednesday.

Vials of fake Sputnik V vaccines for COVID-19 in Campeche, Mexico. Credit:AP

Customs agents and soldiers found 1155 vials containing more than 5700 doses inside two coolers packed with ice and sodas. The crew and Honduran passengers were turned over to the Attorney General’s Office.

Mexican officials did not identify the doses as fake, but the Russian Direct Investment Fund said in a statement on Thursday that after reviewing photographs of the packaging, they determined the vaccine to be fake.

“Analysis of the photographs of the seized batch, including the design of containers and labels, suggests that it is a fake substance which has nothing to do with the original vaccine,” according to the RDIF statement.

“The shipment’s procedure was also in violation of packaging and transportation protocols for the official Sputnik V vaccine.”

AP

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