Biden spokesperson rules out helping Canada, Mexico with vaccine supply before all Americans are inoculated

·3 min read
Biden spokesperson rules out helping Canada, Mexico with vaccine supply before all Americans are inoculated
White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo - image credit)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo - image credit)

The White House spokesperson today ruled out sending vaccines to continental partners like Canada and Mexico, saying U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to getting every American vaccinated before sharing doses with other countries.

During a White House press briefing today, Jen Psaki was asked if Biden was considering sharing part of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine supply with allies. "No," she replied.

"The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus," she added.

Psaki was more definitive than U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was last week. In an interview with CBC's Rosemary Barton Live, Blinken said the U.S. was looking at "how we can help get vaccines around the world."

"None of us are going to be fully safe until everyone in every part of the world is vaccinated," Blinken said when asked if the administration would scrap Trump-era restrictions on U.S. vaccine exports.

WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Canada-U.S. border

Canada is a vaccine laggard in the Western world right now; dozens of other countries have vaccinated more people per capita. The U.S. is expected to have enough supply to vaccinate 4.5 times more people, per capita, than Canada in the first three months of 2021.

Biden has so far maintained the past administration's policy of earmarking virtually all U.S.-made vaccines for the American market. Pfizer's Kalamazoo, Mich. plant and Moderna operations in New England are dedicated to producing U.S. shipments alone.

Last December, then-U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order demanding drugmakers first supply the U.S. government before assisting other nations. Trump's Operation Warp Speed — the U.S. mission to develop a vaccine, manufacture it in large quantities and push it out into communities — provided funding to Moderna to develop its product.

That policy has forced Canada to turn to European plants for supply, despite the geographic proximity of those American operations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week, however, that Canada is expecting part of its supply of the AstraZeneca product to be shipped from U.S. plants in the second and third quarters of this year.

U.S. President Joe Biden listens as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden listens as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

While Health Canada approved the shot last week, that company hasn't yet applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) for the U.S. market.

"We are receiving positive indications that we will be on track to receive our 20 million doses from the facility in the United States," Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

Anand has said she asked the U.S. administration to allow some Pfizer shots to flow north but her requests were rebuffed.

Psaki said that once the 300 million-plus Americans who are eligible for a shot have been vaccinated, the U.S. could talk about sharing supply.

"But our focus, [Biden's] focus, the administration's focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated, and once we accomplish that objective we're happy to discuss further steps beyond that," she said.

"The next step is economic recovery and that is ensuring that our neighbours, Mexico and Canada, have similarly managed the pandemic so that we can open borders and build back better."