The White House laid out a plan for sharing the nation's vaccine surplus with parts of the world struggling to get shots in arms.



The U.S. has contracts for hundreds of millions more COVID vaccine doses than it could possibly use. Today the White House announced a long-awaited plan for sharing that wealth with the rest of the world. The first shipment went out today of what will be 25 million doses shared, and there are promises of a total of 80 million by the end of the month. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us with more.

Hi, Tam.


SHAPIRO: Where are these doses going?

KEITH: So the bulk of them, 19 million, will go to COVAX. That's an international effort to vaccinate people in the world's poorest countries in an equitable way. And they'll go to Latin America, Asia and Africa. And then the other 25% will be shipped directly by the U.S. to areas of particular need or to friends and neighbors. So, for instance, today there's a plane with a million vaccine doses headed to South Korea to vaccinate the military there because they work closely with U.S. troops. The president of Mexico tweeted that he got a call from Vice President Harris saying the U.S. would be sending vaccines to Mexico more. There had already been some sent to Mexico. Surplus vaccines will go to Canada, India, Ukraine, the West Bank and Gaza, among others.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about 25 million doses, but given the scope of the pandemic, is that enough?

KEITH: In a word, no. The U.S. has been under intense pressure to share its wealth of vaccines. I talked to advocates today. They're happy that the U.S. is emphasizing a global effort and not just sharing those doses through bilateral deals, but Carolyn Reynolds of the Pandemic Action Network told me billions of doses are needed, not millions.

CAROLYN REYNOLDS: It is time to have a global road map to vaccinate the world. That's what we hope will come out of the G-7 summit next week. So this announcement today from the White House is an important step forward, but we've got a lot more to do, and we've got to step up the pace, and we've got to do it quickly. As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere around the world, Americans are not safe. None of us are safe.

KEITH: She's part of a coalition sending a letter to President Biden tomorrow calling on the G-7 - so the world's wealthiest nations - to donate at least a billion doses by the end of August. And they're calling on the U.S. alone to contribute at least 350 million. So that is exponentially more than the White House announced today.

SHAPIRO: China and Russia have been distributing vaccines to other countries for months already. Is this U.S. effort different?

KEITH: In many cases, countries had to pay for those vaccines, and they also came with strings attached. National security adviser Jake Sullivan was adamant that the U.S. is taking a different approach.


JAKE SULLIVAN: We're not seeking to extract concessions. We're not extorting. We're not imposing conditions the way that other countries who are providing doses are doing. These are doses that are being given, donated free and clear to these countries for the sole purpose of improving the public health situation and helping end the pandemic.

KEITH: And there's a real emphasis from the administration on the idea that the world's democracies are going to help guide the world out of this pandemic, but the administration has taken a lot of criticism for vaccinating the U.S. first. Now, Sullivan says, that the U.S. will try to galvanize the world's leading economies to get behind this push and draw a contrast with the more transactional approach taken by China and Russia.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Thanks a lot.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.