US President Joe Biden administration announced in April plans to share millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses with the world by the end of June.
Five weeks later, nations around the globe are still waiting – with growing impatience – to know where the vaccines will go and how they will be distributed.
To Biden, the doses represent the ultimate carrot for America’s partners abroad, but also as a essential tool for global health, capable of saving millions of lives and returning a semblance of normalcy to friends and foes alike.
The main question for Biden: what share of doses should be provided to those who need it most, and how many should be reserved for US partners?
The answer, so far at least, appears to be that the administration will provide the bulk of the doses to Covax, the UN-backed global vaccine sharing program meant to meet the needs of lower income countries.
While the percentage is not yet finalized, it would mark a significant– and immediate – boost to the lagging Covax effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.
The Biden administration is considering reserving about a fourth of the doses for the US to dispense directly to individual nations of its choice.
More than 50 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 135 million are fully inoculated, helping bring the rate of cases and deaths in the US to the lowest level since the earliest days of the pandemic.
Scores of countries have requested doses from the United States, but to date only Mexico and Canada have received a combined 4.5 million doses.
The US also has announced plans to share enough shots with South Korea to vaccinate its 550,000 troops who serve alongside American service members on the peninsula.
“Our nation’s going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world,” Biden said on May 17, when he announced the US pledge to share more doses.
He added that, compared to other countries like Russia and China that have sought to leverage their domestically produced doses, “we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries.”