US to send millions of Covid-19 vaccines to Latin America
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US to send millions of Covid-19 vaccines to Latin America

The Biden administration is sending millions of Covid-19 vaccines to countries in Latin America this week as part of President Joe Biden’s commitment to play a leading role in ending the pandemic across the globe.

One million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine will ship to Bolivia on Thursday, one million doses of Pfizer will head to Paraguay on Friday and 1.5 million doses of Moderna will ship to Guatemala on Wednesday, according to the White House.

The move is part of the President’s effort to reassert US leadership on the world stage and have America be an “arsenal of vaccines” in the fight against Covid-19. Sending the vaccines to Latin America will also serve to counter efforts by Russia and China to use their own state-funded vaccines to expand their influence in the region and across the globe.

White House Covid-19 response director Jeff Zients said last week the Biden administration would be sharing tens of millions of US Covid-19 vaccines this summer to countries around the globe, in addition to the 80 million it has already allocated.

The White House has said it has been monitoring and is concerned by efforts by Russia and China to use vaccines to make geopolitical gains. Many countries — including in Latin America, which has traditionally been an area of US influence — have been buying up large numbers of Russian and Chinese vaccines to fill the gaps in their own vaccine rollouts.

The White House has said that at least 75% of the 80 million vaccines would be shared with the global vaccination program called Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, and 25% would be shared directly with countries in need.

The White House says scientific teams and legal and regulatory authorities from all of the countries involved have been working together to ensure the prompt delivery of the vaccines.

In addition to those 80 million vaccines, Biden has pledged to donate 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses globally. The President has stressed there are no strings attached with accepting the US-bought vaccines.

“Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic. That’s it. Period,” Biden said earlier this year when he announced the Pfizer donations.

The President has also said $2 billion in US contributions would go toward a global coronavirus vaccine initiative and would provide support to COVAX. He also pledged an additional $2 billion in funding contingent on contributions from other nations and dose delivery targets being met.

Biden said Tuesday the US was projected to reach the mark of having 160 million fully vaccinated Americans by the end of the week and that his administration would engage in targeted outreach to get more people vaccinated.

The announcement came after the nation fell just short of his initial July Fourth goals of having 160 million people fully vaccinated and 70% of US adults with at least one Covid-19 shot. As of Wednesday afternoon, 157.6 million Americans are fully vaccinated and 67.1% of US adults have had at least one shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zients acknowledged it would take a few more weeks to reach those targets and said the administration had more work to do to get younger Americans — particularly those ages 18 to 26 — vaccinated.

“It’s up to individuals to decide whether they want to get vaccinated or not,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “But what we’ve seen as a barrier, all along for months, has been access and information. So we’re going to continue to deploy the tactics that we’ve seen over the last few months.”

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