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US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries

The Biden administration on Monday announced that it will move to donate millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, after pressure from lawmakers and experts.

The United States has millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized in the US, but is in other countries, and could play a key role amid worsening spikes in cases abroad, particularly in India. 

“U.S. to release 60 million Astra Zeneca doses to other countries as they become available,” tweeted White House senior adviser for the coronavirus response Andy Slavitt.

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"To everyone who understandably says: 'about time' or 'what were they waiting for', at this time there are still very few available. No real time has been lost," Slavitt continued.

The news was first reported by The Associated Press.

“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States has already authorized, and that is available in large quantities, including two two-dose vaccines and one one-dose vaccine, and given AstraZeneca is not authorized for use in the United States, we do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID over the next few months,” White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden to host Germany's Merkel at the White House in July Psaki 'likely will stay longer' than year as White House press secretary MORE said Monday.

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The announcement comes after mounting pressure on the Biden administration to provide more help to other countries.

Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaFresh hurdles push timeline on getting China bill to Biden New report reignites push for wealth tax Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (D-Calif.) and Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiOvernight Health Care: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents House Democrats call on Biden to do 'much more' to vaccinate the world Postal Service raises stamps to 58 cents as part of restructuring plan MORE (D-Ill.) had called on the administration to release the doses on Sunday, as had Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday.

The Biden administration had previously said it was focused on vaccinating Americans before it would turn its attention to other countries. But the vaccine supply picture has improved dramatically in the U.S., while at the same time there are worsening crises in other countries. India has even faced shortages of oxygen as it deals with an alarming spike in cases.

Psaki said the doses cannot be released immediately, as they will first have to undergo safety reviews by the Food and Drug Administration. A Baltimore plant that had been producing the vaccine has faced a string of problems and was cited by the FDA for multiple safety failures.

Once the FDA clears the doses, "in the coming weeks," Psaki said about 10 million doses will be available. An additional 50 million doses are in "various stages of production" and could be available across May and June, she said.

The administration's move was welcomed by the ONE Campaign, a global organization campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, that called on the Biden administration to accelerate vaccine sharing.

“The US has secured more than 550 million excess doses that could be used to help end the global pandemic faster. The Biden administration should build on this welcome first step and start sharing more vaccines as soon as possible,” Tom Hart, acting CEO at The ONE Campaign, said in a statement.

On Sunday, the administration also announced other steps to help India, including sending test kits, protective equipment, oxygen generation supplies, and raw materials for making the vaccine.

President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE also spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

“The President pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” the White House said.

Laura Kelly contributed to this report which was updated at 2:12 p.m.