US to share 60m AZ coronavirus vaccines with rest of world

The US has said it will share up to 60 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as they become available, after criticism it was hoarding the shots while other countries desperately need it.

The White House has said it expects to export the vaccines in the coming months after the outcome of a review by the FDA.

At the moment the US vaccination programme is based around vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson approved under emergency measures.

AZ’s vaccine has not yet been approved by the FDA, which is running the rule over the safety and efficacy data gathered by the UK pharma.

Development in the US has been held up by a safety scare in autumn which led to a separate review by the FDA that lasted some weeks, although the vaccine was eventually cleared.

The White House expects about 10 million doses of the AZ vaccine to be released in the coming weeks following the conclusion of the FDA review.

Another 50 million doses are in various stages of production and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the FDA will conduct quality checks on doses before they are exported.

The announcement follows tragedy of the runaway coronavirus outbreak in India, where hospitals are overwhelmed.

There are also concerns that the while Western countries stockpile vaccines, the outbreak in India could spawn dangerous new variants.

There have been 320,000 new infections on Tuesday and deaths are approaching the 200,000 mark.

Although India’s official statistics stand at 17.6 million cases and 197,500 deaths the real figures could be much higher.

The UK was the first country to send aid after a shipment of ventilators and oxygen equipment landed in Delhi.

India is badly short of oxygen supplies because of the pressure the disease is putting on hospitals and the 200 items are just a tiny fraction of what is needed to bring the situation under control.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told the BBC that far more was needed to support the country’s population of 1.3 billion during the crisis.

The World Health Organization has said it will deliver a further 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India.

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