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The U.S. Is Sitting on Tens of Millions of Vaccine Doses the World Needs
March 12, 2021
Those tens of millions of doses from AstraZeneca are waiting for trial results, while countries that authorized the vaccine beg to have them.
By Noah Weiland and Rebecca Robbins
WASHINGTON — Tens of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities, awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trial while countries that have authorized its use beg for access.
The fate of those doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials, with some arguing the administration should let them go abroad where they are desperately needed while others are not ready to relinquish them, according to senior administration officials.
AstraZeneca is involved in those conversations.
“We understand other governments may have reached out to the U.S. government about donation of AstraZeneca doses, and we’ve asked the U.S. government to give thoughtful consideration to these requests,” said Gonzalo Viña, a spokesman for AstraZeneca.
About 30 million doses are currently bottled at AstraZeneca’s facility in West Chester, Ohio, which handles “fill-finish,” the final phase of the manufacturing process during which the vaccine is placed in vials, one official with knowledge of the stockpile said.
Emergent BioSolutions, a company in Maryland that AstraZeneca has contracted to manufacture its vaccine in the United States, has also produced enough vaccine in Baltimore for tens of millions more doses once it is filled into vials and packaged, the official said.
But although AstraZeneca’s vaccine is already authorized in more than 70 countries, according to a company spokesman, its U.S. clinical trial has not yet reported results, and the company has not applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. AstraZeneca has asked the Biden administration to let it loan American doses to the European Union, where it has fallen short of its original supply commitments and where the vaccination campaign has stumbled badly.