U.S. Will Donate 60 Million AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine Doses

An illustration of COVID vaccine ampules and a syringe on top of a world map.

Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The Biden Administration plans to donate millions of doses of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine to other countries.
  • Because vaccine supply in the United States is stable and doses are now available to all Americans, donations won't impact U.S. vaccine availability.
  • Experts say the U.S. needs to share the vaccine licensing and manufacturing information with other countries, allowing them to step up their own vaccine production.

On April 16, the Biden Administration announced the U.S. would share up to 60 million doses of its supply of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Even though AstraZeneca has not applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. stockpiled the vaccine.

Because supplies of the three U.S.-approved COVID vaccines are steady and nearly half of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, this donation won't impact U.S. vaccine availability.

The United Kingdom, European Union, Asia, and Africa are all widely distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is manufactured in Baltimore, Maryland.

“I think it's the right thing to do, and, and I think it will help, but obviously, the need is much greater,” Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Verywell. “It can be done, and it should be done.”

Vaccine Diplomacy

The AstraZeneca vaccine doses will not be donated—a move that some are calling "vaccine diplomacy"—until the FDA confirms that all doses to be shared meet its expectations for product quality.

The Biden Administration previously gave several million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada and Mexico.

There are 10 million doses awaiting FDA approval, and up to another 50 million doses will later be evaluated and donated, likely in late May or June. The second batch of donations is in various stages of production.

Heading Off Variants

Because the AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses, 60 million doses will only immunize 30 million people. Given the size of the world population, the donation is small.

Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH

We have to get out of a charity mode when we think about responding globally to these pandemics. We have to start thinking more about how we are all in this together.

— Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH

Still, Beyrer says "every little bit helps at this point because in most of the world, the United States, the UK, and European countries aside, we are still in a period of extreme vaccine scarcity, with much more need and demand.”

With SARS-CoV-2 virus variants on the rise, vaccination is crucial. Still, global full immunization likely won't occur until at least sometime in 2023, which Beyrer says "is just too slow of a rollout to head off these variants."

Scarcity to Surplus

The U.S. "doesn’t need the AstraZeneca vaccine at this point," Beyrer says—a sentiment echoed by the White House. The U.S. is expected to have hundreds of millions of surplus vaccine doses.

Currently, all U.S. states and territories have enough COVID vaccine doses for everyone over age 16.

“What's so striking right now is that after a period of vaccine scarcity in the United States, we're really reaching a tipping point, which is quite extraordinary,” Beyrer says, adding that he did not expect the U.S. to be at this point this early on in the vaccination process. His earliest predictions pointed to June or July.

“I say all of that really just to make the point, that the administration is making, which is that the donation of AstraZeneca is not at the expense of any American or anybody in America who wants a vaccine," Beyrer says.

What This Means For You

If you're an adult 16 and over in the U.S., you are currently eligible to receive the vaccine. Find an appointment near you here.

Sharing How to Make More Vaccines

According to Beyrer, next steps should ensure developing countries can make their own supplies of vaccines. To facilitate this, the U.S. would need to share the intellectual rights to and means to manufacture vaccines.

Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH

We need to build scientific capacity and vaccine capacity, globally, and we can do this.

— Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH

“We need to start thinking about intellectual property transfer and increasing manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries that could potentially manufacture these vaccines,” Beyrer says. “If we could increase global supply through local manufacture, then that would not only help deal with this enormous problem right now, but it could also potentially help us get ahead of these variants.”

Intellectual property transfer and licensing for the manufacture of vaccines can be a lasting solution to the problem.

“We need to build scientific capacity and vaccine capacity, globally, and we can do this," Beyrer says. "These are not easy products to make, but there are multiple countries that are able to do it." He cites Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, and South Korea as countries with the manufacturing experience to make vaccines.

Beyrer adds that sharing the licensing for the vaccine “is also the kind of thing that helps us globally for the next pandemic. We have to get out of charity mode when we think about responding globally to these pandemics. We have to start thinking more about how we are all in this together.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID data tracker: COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States.

  2. The White House. Background press call by senior administration officials on Covid-19 in India.

  3. The Economist Intelligence Unit. More than 85 poor countries will not have widespread access to coronavirus vaccines before 2023.

By Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette has over 30 years' experience writing about health and medicine. She is the former managing editor of Drug Topics magazine.