The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

Karwai Tang | Getty Images

The U.S. government will share the bulk of its donated Covid-19 vaccine doses through COVAX, the World Health Organization-led program that provides vaccinations to countries in need, the White House said Thursday.

The Biden government has pledged to donate at least 20 million doses of Covid vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that are not yet approved for use in the United States.

The US plans to distribute 75% of vaccines through the global vaccine-sharing program COVAX, the White House said in an email. Of the first 25 million cans, about 6 million go to countries in South and Central America, 7 million to Asia and 5 million to Africa, the White House said. About 6 million will go to neighboring countries and US allies.

At least 25% of the shots are being retained for immediate US needs and for “countries in need, those with surges, immediate neighbors, and other countries that have requested immediate US aid,” according to the schedule.

The government is donating the shots to “save lives” and thwart the emergence of new variants, said national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday.

“The United States is not doing this as a kind of back-and-forth agreement that gives us something in return,” Sullivan said at a White House briefing. “We’re giving this for one purpose. It’s the purpose of ending this pandemic.”

The announcement comes as leaders urge wealthy nations like the US to donate Covid vaccinations to other countries. While the US has returned to some form of normal as more Americans get vaccinated and new cases fall, other countries like India have seen huge outbreaks.

Just last week, the WHO announced that Africa needed at least 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine within six weeks to get the second round of vaccination to the people who received the first vaccination.

The head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations told Reuters that the leaders of the Group of 7 Rich Nations urgently need to donate vaccinations to avoid an outcome similar to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people.

“If we are to avoid situations like Peru, if we are to avoid effects that could rival that of the 1918 flu, it is a moral imperative that we must send vaccines to countries to deliver their health care workers and vulnerable populations now Protect. ‚ÄĚRichard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, which runs the COVAX vaccine sharing facility, told Reuters.

In addition to dispensing the doses, the White House also announced that it would lift restrictions under the Defense Production Act, which gives the US priority on vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Novavax.