China and India are already giving away vaccine shots to curry favor with neighbors, and more than 50 countries from Latin America to Asia have ordered 1.2 billion doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. But Mr. Biden would face a political uproar if he sent doses abroad while they are still scarce in the United States.
Mr. Biden is taking steps to ramp up vaccine production so that there will be as many as a billion doses available by the end of this year — far more than are necessary to vaccinate the roughly 260 million American adults.
A deal the administration brokered to have the pharmaceutical giant Merck manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, which Mr. Biden celebrated at the White House on Wednesday, will help advance that goal. Also Wednesday, Mr. Biden directed federal health officials to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses and unforeseen events, like infectious new variants. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”
At the same time, tens of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities, awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trial while countries that have authorized its use beg for access.
The fate of those doses is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials, with some arguing the administration should let them go abroad where they are desperately needed while others are not ready to relinquish them, according to the senior administration officials.
The financing agreement the administration will unveil at Friday’s Quad Summit is aimed at creating capacity to make and deliver as many as an additional billion doses in 2022 to support global demand, the officials said.
The administration has recently been in talks with international partners, including those backing a World Health Organization vaccine program, known as Covax, about various ways to boost global vaccine supply, including by paying for companies to manufacture more doses that can then be released overseas, according to one participant in those discussions, who insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.