The Biden administration has rejected the idea of sharing Covid-19 vaccines with the hard-hit neighbor Mexico, White House press-secretary Jen Psaki said, adding that it can only be discussed after all Americans get their shots.
“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,” Psaki said when asked about possible vaccine sharing during a briefing on Monday.
The comments came hours before the virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The Mexican president had reportedly asked Biden for help with the jabs in January, and was expected to return to the issue during the negotiations.
“We’d like to get an answer on a request that we’ve already made … about the vaccines” from Biden, Lopez Obrador said during a press conference on Monday. “Provided he’s of the view the matter should be addressed. We must be respectful.”
With 186,000 fatalities so far, Mexico is the third in the world in the number coronavirus-related deaths after the US (513,000) and Brazil (255,000).
In this dire situation, Lopez Obrador has become one of the harshest critics of how vaccines are being distributed internationally. He said that it was “totally unfair” that rich countries were “hoarding” the jab for themselves and urged the UN to interfere so that poorer nations could gain access to the immunization too.
Mexico has currently given the first shot to just over 1.8 million people, or 1.4 percent of its population. The country’s vaccination campaign has gotten off to a slow start, largely due to the delays in shipments by the US pharma giant Pfizer.
In order to compensate for the shortages, the government has turned to Russia’s Sputnik V and Chinese Sinovac vaccines. Mexico City and Moscow have agreed the supply of 24 million doses of the Russian immunization, with the first shipment arriving in the country in late February and being swiftly put to use.
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