The US announced a plan on Monday to send 55 million Covid vaccine doses to countries in need.
The plan fulfils President Joe Biden’s commitment to share 80 million US-made vaccines globally.
He sketched out his priorities for the first 25 million doses from that pledge earlier this month.
Forty-one million of the 55 million doses will be distributed through the Covax programme. The remaining 14 million will be given directly to nations the US deems priorities.
Mr Biden has announced the US will buy 500 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine and donate them to the world’s poorest countries. The first tranche included shots made by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
“The Biden administration’s plan for sharing more Covid-19 vaccine doses globally will help end the pandemic faster and save lives,” said Tom Hart, acting chief executive of The One campaign to eradicate poverty and preventable disease.
Regulatory hurdles and other obstacles mean Mr Biden is expected to fall short of his commitment to ship 80 million Covid-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June.
Fewer than 10 million doses have been sent. They include 2.5 million doses to Taiwan and about one million to Mexico, Canada and South Korea this month.
Officials said that while the US-produced doses are ready, deliveries have been delayed owing to US legal, logistical and regulatory requirements, and those of the recipient countries.
“What we have found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We have plenty of doses to share with the world, but this is a Herculean logistical challenge.”
She said shipments will go out as soon as countries are ready to receive the doses and the administration sorts out logistical complexities, including vaccination supplies such as syringes and alcohol prep pads, cold-storage for the doses, customs procedures and even language barriers.
Ms Psaki said she did not know how many doses would be shipped by the end of the month.
The surplus is not needed in the US, where demand for vaccinations has plummeted in recent weeks. More than 177 million Americans have received at least one shot.
Mr Biden had initially committed to providing other nations with all 60 million US-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has yet to be authorised for use in the US but is approved in many countries.
The AstraZeneca drug is pending a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.
Through the Covax programme, the latest batch of doses will include about 14 million for Latin America and the Caribbean, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica. Approximately 16 million will be earmarked for Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Cambodia and the Pacific Islands. About 10 million will be sent to Africa, with countries selected in concert with the African Union.
About 14 million doses will be shared directly with Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Oman, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina.