The United States plans to send four million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House said.
Around 2.5 million doses will be sent to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a "loan", according to press secretary Jen Psaki.
“Our first priority remains vaccinating the US population,” Psaki said at a daily press briefing. But she said that "ensuring our neighbours can contain the virus is a mission critical step" and is "critical to ending the pandemic."
The Biden administration is currently finalising the details. It comes as the White House said the US was close to meeting President Joe Biden's goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations, weeks ahead of his target date.
"I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met our goal," Biden said. He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.
US stockpiling AstraZeneca vaccine
Tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are currently stockpiled in the US even though the vaccine isn't authorised in the United States.
But Canada, Mexico, the EU, World Health Organisation and other countries have authorised the jab.
Psaki said multiple nations have requested access to the US vaccines, but she didn't have anything to add on further distributions.
Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said via Twitter that Mexico was receiving the vaccine as a result of the conversation between President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier this month.
"God bless America they are coming to our rescue," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the leader of Canada’s most populous province. He thanked Biden for his willingness to share the vaccines.
“That’s what true neighbours do. They help each other in a crisis,” he said. "We will take all the vaccines you can give us, so that’s fabulous news."
The Biden administration has said that once US citizens are vaccinated, the next step is ensuring Canada and Mexico are able to manage the pandemic so the borders can reopen.
First export of doses from the US
It's the first export of vaccine doses from the United States. In Canada, where four vaccines have been approved, it's been difficult acquiring them. The country ranks 20th in number of doses administered.
Mexico ranks about 10th in the number of doses administered, with 3.3% of the total population getting at least one shot.
AstraZeneca is among the vaccines that have received emergency approval in Mexico, and Mexico already has 870,000 doses of that vaccine.
It also has Pfizer, SinoVac and Sputnik V for a total of more than 8 million doses. One million doses of SinoVac arrived from Hong Kong on Thursday.
The US stockpiling of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been controversial with other allies as well.
The European Union had found it difficult to approach Biden on sharing supplies of the vaccine so the disease could be stopped overseas, which would not only help save lives but also improve global economic growth.