President Biden’s administration plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House confirmed Thursday, a development that comes as the U.S. faces a surge of migrants at the southern border with Mexico.
Press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the plans, which were first reported by Reuters and The Washington Post, but said that they were not yet finalized.
"Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population, but the reality is the pandemic knows no borders,” Psaki told reporters. “Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”
Psaki said that officials are working to finalize plans to give Mexico 2.5 million doses and give Canada 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet been approved in the United States. She said that the U.S. has 7 million “releasable” doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in total and suggested the administration could share extras with other countries in the future.
"Balancing the need of letting the approval process play out of the AstraZeneca vaccine as it is taking place in the U.S. with the importance of helping stop the spread in other countries, we are assessing how we can loan doses,” she said. “That is our aim, it is not fully finalized yet but that is our aim and what we’re working toward.”
The plans coincide with an effort by the administration to get a handle on the surge of migrants at the southern border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement early this week that the number of attempted crossings there is on pace to reach its highest level in two decades.
Asked Thursday whether the vaccine announcement had anything to do with conversations about addressing the border crisis, Psaki suggested the two issues were not related.
“There have been expectations set outside of, unrelated to any vaccine doses or requests for them that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border. And there have been requests, unrelated, for doses of these vaccines. Every relationship has multiple layers of conversations that are happening at the same time,” she said.
The agreement is not expected to impact Biden’s plan to make the vaccine available to all U.S. adults by the end of May.
It comes after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requested vaccine doses from the U.S. Mexico and Canada will be expected to pay back the U.S. with doses later this year, according to Reuters.
On the border issue, Mexico has vowed to take back more Central American families “expelled” while the U.S. has an emergency health order in place, the Post reported.
Biden had previously said his officials were “talking with several countries” about the United States' supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.