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US begins reopening as Covid-19 cases decline

The US will distribute 25 million Covid vaccines as part of an initial tranche of the 80 million doses President Biden has pledged to share internationally, the State Department’s coordinator for global Covid-19 response and health security, Gayle Smith, said in a call with reporters Friday. She offered no timeline for the vaccines’ delivery. 

The US will distribute 25% of that first tranche bilaterally, Smith said.

“It gives us greater flexibility and as we’ve seen there are a lot of pop-ups and flares in this pandemic and we want to be able to move vaccines on an urgent basis if needed,” Smith said. She added that the “current expectation” is that the vaccines would be produced by AstraZeneca.

The remaining 75% of the first tranche of US vaccines will go to COVAX, the international group focused on the global vaccine distribution, Smith said, and added that the Biden administration has “identified the countries we want these vaccines to go to.” 

Roughly 6 million doses will be distributed across Latin America, including the Caribbean, 7 million will go to South and Southeast Asia, and 5 million to Africa, Smith said.

“This is the first round, this is just the beginning,” said Smith. She was not able to say when the 55 million doses that make up the total 80 million vaccines would be delivered.

Going forward, the Biden administration will pursue a three-part strategy to maximize vaccine supply by sharing doses, encouraging US manufacturers to increase vaccine production “by the last quarter, if not earlier, of this year, and well into next year,” Smith said. The administration will also work to improve global vaccine production by increasing production capacity “so there are more places in the world, manufacturing, and able to distribute vaccines,” Smith said.

“Our goal is to end the pandemic and maximize that as quickly as we can,” Smith said. “It’s in our interest to do this, our own health security is at risk… none of us is safe until all of us are safe.”

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