White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients is set to announce the Biden administration is shipping 11 million vaccines doses abroad on Friday, with 9 million going to Africa and another 2 million to other countries around the world, according to remarks obtained by CNN.
The move follows President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday that the administration will send more than 200 million doses abroad in 100 days, accelerating delivery to high-risk countries. The Friday shipment brings the total number of US-provided doses sent to Africa to 100 million.
“The President has been clear from the start: If we want to protect the American people and our economy, we must defeat the virus everywhere. That means we must ensure the rest of the world gets vaccinated,” Zients is expected to say, according to the remarks. “And under President Biden’s leadership, the United States is leading the way.”
The Biden administration also will push international partners to take a stronger role in aiding in global vaccine efforts.
“From supporting communications campaigns to build vaccine confidence, to funding for vaccinators on the front line – we are leading the global vaccination effort. And we are calling on the rest of the world to step up and join us,” Zients is expected to say.
Friday’s move comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over recent travel restrictions imposed on eight African countries amid concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Several of the countries under the travel ban have not had a confirmed Omicron case yet. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has likened the widespread travel bans to “travel apartheid.”
Zients also will highlight the Biden administration’s progress in global vaccination efforts so far – noting a commitment of 1.2 billion doses worldwide and 280 million doses already donated and shipped to 110 countries, a figure the administration says exceeds the number of doses donated and shipped by all other countries combined. The 11 million doses shipped Friday also exceed the donations of all but seven other countries throughout the pandemic, according to the administration.
Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Biden administration has urged international partners to ramp up vaccine donations worldwide. Biden has also called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines to increase manufacturing around the world.
The Omicron variant also prompted the US and other countries to enact travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other southern African countries, a move that has drawn criticism from world leaders and some in the travel industry. Administration officials have defended the decision, arguing the restrictions provide the US with more time to assess the effect of the new variant and are not meant to be permanent.
“The President is briefed every day by his Covid team and will continue to assess, based on their recommendations, any additional steps that needs to be taken,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. “Putting in place these travel restrictions was intended to give us more time to do the necessary evaluation, data and testing required that our health experts are working around the clock to do. And they made this assessment and recommendation about the countries where we would put in place these travel restrictions in order to give us that time.”
The first Omicron case was reported in the US on Wednesday, and cases have now been detected in at least five states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York, according to local health officials.
The Biden administration is also implementing new international travel requirements ahead of possible winter Covid surge. Starting at 12:01 am ET Monday, inbound international travelers will need to obtain a negative test within one day of departure for the United States – a change from the previous three-day requirement. Any foreign national traveling to the US must show proof of vaccination against Covid-19.
The US is also extending its mask requirement for domestic travel until mid-March, and the White House said this week that a vaccine requirement for domestic travel remains on the table.
As part of winter preparations for Covid, Biden also announced the expansion of vaccination and booster efforts as well as requiring insurance companies to pay for at-home tests.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.