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US to Distribute 60 Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Other Countries

Doses of the vaccine from drugmaker AstraZeneca are set to be delivered to other countries over the next several months.

Just as philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates said the U.S. and the U.K. should step up to aid countries with slower vaccination programs, the White House announced on Monday that it will be sharing 60 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from drugmaker AstraZeneca to other countries over the next several months, NPR reported.

The vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S. while it awaits reviews by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These reviews could be completed as soon as the "coming weeks," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing.

Psaki did not reveal which countries would receive the vaccines but did specify that approximately 10 million doses are ready to ship as soon as FDA approval is granted. The AstraZeneca vaccine has, however, already been used across Europe and other locations around the world.

"We do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID in the next few months," Psaki explained, referring to the fact that the nation has a strong supply of the vaccine doses made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was reported last December as being effective against the new more contagious strain that has shown up in the U.K. “We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told TIME at the time. 

Still, some people prefer the Pfizer vaccine as AstraZeneca's is reported to be only 70% effective whereas Pfizer's is 95% effective. Regardless, the U.S.' move to help other nations was well received.

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"The U.S. has a tremendous number of resources at its disposal, and so if the U.S. government really gets involved and decides it's going to help an ally and a fellow democracy, I think it can make a big difference," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition.

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