US State Department Coordinator for Global Covid Response and Health Security Gayle E Smith has said the United States is going to be the largest sharer of vaccines putting 80 million additional doses into the mix.
"I can't tell you at this point what the allocation is going to be per country. We'll have information for you later on. And as, I think, I mentioned, we are also, with respect to India and also India's neighbours, mounting an emergency humanitarian response given the surges that are ongoing there," she said.
In a telephonic media briefing on Wednesday, Smith referred to announcement by US President Joe Biden earlier this week that they will be sharing 20 million vaccine doses from their own stocks in addition to the 60 million AstraZeneca doses that were announced previously by the President.
"So, that means we're going to be putting 80 million additional vaccines into the mix, making us the largest sharer of vaccines thus far," she said.
The US official said given the surge there, India has been a major priority for the US. "We've delivered $100 million in emergency assistance; mobilised with the American private sector a pretty amazing response, again, from the American private sector and public, and we'll continue to do so."
Smith said she does not have anything to say yet on the ultimate allocations, but they will reach out and make sure that all are informed when those decisions are made.
During the telephone conversation on Tuesday, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar assured his Bangladesh counterpart Dr AK Abdul Momen of requesting the US to give the vaccine to Bangladesh.
Dr Jaishankar informed that he is aware of the demand for a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh has requested the United States to supply vaccine urgently since India could not supply vaccine to Bangladesh timely.
Smith said they think the supply of vaccines is a very big issue and they need many more vaccines for countries all over the world.
To that end, she said, they are working with producers on increasing the supply, and also on the supply chains.
"The component parts that make up a vaccine are in shortage in some cases, so we're working to increase that production so that supply can increase," said Smith.
The vaccine strategy is part of a broader strategy for the United States.
"It's critical to ensure that there is both vaccine uptake, but also that diagnostics – importantly, testing – therapeutics, and other supplies are available," said the US official.
She said they are pushing out over a billion dollars, increasing their support for that effort, and at the same time providing humanitarian assistance not only for countries where they are seeing a surge, but more broadly, to people all over the world who have felt the impacts of this pandemic on their economic livelihoods, their wellbeing, and their health.
"We're well aware of the systemic impacts of the pandemic, and particularly on low- and low-middle-income countries. To that end, as you know, our Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen called for a new issuance of special drawing rights. This garnered the support of the international community," Smith said.
That whole process in now under discussion, and so that's something that will be available later this year and we hope will help mitigate some of the economic impacts of the pandemic, she said.
Smith said they are consulting closely with COVAX, which is the largest vaccine delivery platform in the world and that is focused on, in particular, low-income and low-middle-income countries. "With our partners in order to initiate a process where we start to get the global coverage we need."
She ssid they are very strong supporters of COVAX and the President made a $2 billion contribution shortly after taking office, which puts us out front as the primary donor.
"We're in very close touch with them on a regular basis, coordinating with them. And of course we look at COVAX as an absolutely critical and the central platform for allocation. Again, we'll have more to say on that when we've made the final decisions on allocation," she said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr Momen requested his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar to ensure supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Bangladesh as soon as possible to meet Bangladesh's needs.
Bangladesh entered into a deal with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to purchase 30 million doses of a potential vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca for Covid-19.
Bangladesh was supposed to get five million doses of vaccine per month as the SII and Bangladesh's Beximco Pharma signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for priority delivery of the vaccine doses.
Bangladesh sought at least 3 million doses of vaccine under the agreement to address the immediate demand in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has so far received only 7 million of Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine doses produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) through its contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift.