The U.S. has a stockpile of tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, but the shot has yet to be approved by American regulators.
The White House is in the midst of a tense debate over whether or not to release the vaccine doses to other countries which have already approved the vaccine, according to The New York Times (NYT). About 30 million doses are ready at the company’s West Chester, Ohio, facility and enough vaccine for tens of millions more doses is reportedly ready in Baltimore, Maryland, at an Emergent BioSolutions facility.
More than 70 countries have already authorized use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but its U.S. trial has yet to offer results and the company has not applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA. The company has asked the White House for permission to loan its American doses to the European Union due to supply shortages there, according to the NYT, but the Biden administration has denied the request so far. (RELATED: POLL: 47% Of Trump Supporters Will Not Take Coronavirus Vaccine)
The Trump administration offered up to $1.2 billion in May 2020 to AstraZeneca to help with vaccine development in exchange for up to 300 million doses if an effective remedy could be produced. Unfortunately, the British-Swedish company has hit a number of snags with the FDA which have delayed approval of the vaccine.
Its U.S. trial was halted for seven weeks last year due to a delay in providing information to the FDA on possible neurological side effects discovered in two vaccine recipients. Health regulators in Iceland, Norway and Denmark have suspended the use of the vaccine due to blood clots reported in several European recipients, according to Insider.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 12, 2021
E.U. officials and the company say there’s no evidence the clots are being caused by the vaccine. In addition to the production and safety concerns, some people in Europe have refused to take the AstraZeneca shot due to its lower efficacy compared to the offerings from other companies like Pfizer and Moderna, the NYT reported.
South Africa reportedly canceled plans to approve the vaccine in February after it proved less effective against a particular strain that emerged from the country. (RELATED: China Offers To Vaccinate All Olympic Athletes Ahead Of Beijing, Tokyo Games)
Some European officials have begun to blame the United States for their shortage in vaccines. European Council president Charles Michel said the U.S. and Britain had implemented an “outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory,” as reported by the BBC.
In addition to blocking the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine so far, the Biden administration denied a request from Johnson & Johnson to ship some doses from America to Europe to help meet supply shortfalls there. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that companies are free to export doses abroad so long as they are meeting contractual obligations to the United States, but that President Joe Biden would not be donating doses to other countries until all Americans could get inoculated.
Some experts question if the AstraZeneca vaccine will even provide value to the United States by the time its trial results are ready, according to the NYT. The shot isn’t expected to be any more effective than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only takes one dose and can be more easily stored than offerings from Pfizer and Moderna.