Home » Entries posted by ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden grappling with 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

Biden grappling with 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deathsBy ZEKE MILLER Associated PressJuly 17, 2021, 4:34 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deaths — and the limitations of his ability to combat the persistent vaccine hesitance responsible for the summer backslide.Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks.While the national emergency may have faded, officials say the outbreak is now a more localized crisis in communities where not enough people have rolled up their sleeves.“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The rising numbers are being driven by large pockets of infection among the more than 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to get shots. Just four states with low vaccination rates made up 40% of new cases last week, and nearly half of them came from Florida alone.However, there is little appetite in the White House for a return to broad mandates for masks or other measures, as 161 million Americans are already fully vaccinated.Reflecting that mindset, Walensky said Friday that in low-vaccination areas with rising cases, “local policymakers might consider whether masking at that point would be something that would be helpful for their community.”Some communities are acting. Los Angeles County on Thursday reinstituted its requirement that masks be worn in most indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, and health officials in Las Vegas recommended on Friday that workers and patrons in the tourism hotspot wear face coverings while inside.With three highly effective vaccines authorized for use in the U.S., the Biden administration believes the most effective way to attack the virus is not trying to slow the spread with mass masking and such — something the U.S. showed it was not very good at last year — but to continue to press the importance of vaccinations.It’s no easy fix. Many Americans remain resistant or unmotivated to get shots, despite months of often-creative efforts by federal and state officials and the private sector to spread information about vaccine safety and accessibility.Surgeon General Vivek Murthy added that while government can play an important role, “this has got to be an ‘all of the above’ strategy with everybody in,” including schools, employers, technology companies and individuals.In recent days, the administration has turned its focus to younger Americans. It enlisted pop star Olivia Rodrigo for a day-long White House visit Wednesday with Biden and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci that was heavily documented for social media. Younger people are at lowest risk of adverse outcomes from the virus and have proven to be among the least likely to get vaccinated.But another huge group has proven to be an even more vexing challenge: Republicans. The White House has long acknowledged that, given rampant disinformation about the vaccines and the nation’s partisan divides, it would have little success convincing the GOP to get on board. Instead, administration officials have amped up criticism in recent days of public officials and social media companies for spreading or not condemning vaccine misinformation spreading among the GOP.“They’re killing people,” Biden said Friday of social media companies, speaking a day after Murthy, the surgeon general, warned that false information about vaccines spreading on platforms like Facebook posed a public health risk to the nation.Efforts for comment from major platforms were not immediately successful.The new government expression of frustration comes amid near disbelief that tens of millions of Americans continue to refuse to get vaccinated, needlessly extending the pandemic and costing lives, as health officials emphasize that nearly all serious cases and deaths are now preventable.More than 99% of COVID-19 deaths and 97% of hospitalizations are among people who have not been vaccinated, according to the CDC.The pandemic is now “one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday.He said the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spreading in communities with low vaccination rates But Zients added that there is a sign that the increased cases are driving more people in those communities to seek vaccination, reporting that “states with the highest case rates are seeing their vaccination rates go up” faster than the national average.

Biden grappling with 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

Biden grappling with 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deathsBy ZEKE MILLER Associated PressJuly 16, 2021, 9:41 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deaths — and the limitations of his ability to combat the persistent vaccine hesitance responsible for the summer backslide.Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks.While the national emergency may have faded, officials say the outbreak is now a more localized crisis in communities where not enough people have rolled up their sleeves.“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The rising numbers are being driven by large pockets of infection among the more than 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to get shots. Just four states with low vaccination rates made up 40% of new cases last week, and nearly half of them came from Florida alone.However, there is little appetite in the White House for a return to broad mandates for masks or other measures, as 161 million Americans are already fully vaccinated.Reflecting that mindset, Walensky said Friday that in low-vaccination areas with rising cases, “local policymakers might consider whether masking at that point would be something that would be helpful for their community.”Some communities are acting. Los Angeles County on Thursday reinstituted its requirement that masks be worn in most indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, and health officials in Las Vegas recommended on Friday that workers and patrons in the tourism hotspot wear face coverings while inside.With three highly effective vaccines authorized for use in the U.S., the Biden administration believes the most effective way to attack the virus is not trying to slow the spread with mass masking and such — something the U.S. showed it was not very good at last year — but to continue to press the importance of vaccinations.It’s no easy fix. Many Americans remain resistant or unmotivated to get shots, despite months of often-creative efforts by federal and state officials and the private sector to spread information about vaccine safety and accessibility.Surgeon General Vivek Murthy added that while government can play an important role, “this has got to be an ‘all of the above’ strategy with everybody in,” including schools, employers, technology companies and individuals.In recent days, the administration has turned its focus to younger Americans. It enlisted pop star Olivia Rodrigo for a day-long White House visit Wednesday with Biden and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci that was heavily documented for social media. Younger people are at lowest risk of adverse outcomes from the virus and have proven to be among the least likely to get vaccinated.But another huge group has proven to be an even more vexing challenge: Republicans. The White House has long acknowledged that, given rampant disinformation about the vaccines and the nation’s partisan divides, it would have little success convincing the GOP to get on board. Instead, administration officials have amped up criticism in recent days of public officials and social media companies for spreading or not condemning vaccine misinformation spreading among the GOP.“They’re killing people,” Biden said Friday of social media companies, speaking a day after Murthy, the surgeon general, warned that false information about vaccines spreading on platforms like Facebook posed a public health risk to the nation.Efforts for comment from major platforms were not immediately successful.The new government expression of frustration comes amid near disbelief that tens of millions of Americans continue to refuse to get vaccinated, needlessly extending the pandemic and costing lives, as health officials emphasize that nearly all serious cases and deaths are now preventable.More than 99% of COVID-19 deaths and 97% of hospitalizations are among people who have not been vaccinated, according to the CDC.The pandemic is now “one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday.He said the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spreading in communities with low vaccination rates But Zients added that there is a sign that the increased cases are driving more people in those communities to seek vaccination, reporting that “states with the highest case rates are seeing their vaccination rates go up” faster than the national average.

Biden picks ex-West Virginia health official as drug czar

Biden picks ex-West Virginia health official as drug czar

President Joe Biden is nominating West Virginia’s former health commissioner as the nation’s top anti-drug official, tapping a doctor who served on the front lines of the nation’s opioid epidemicBy ZEKE MILLER Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 7:29 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is nominating West Virginia’s former health commissioner as the nation’s top anti-drug official, tapping a doctor who served on the front lines of the nation’s opioid epidemic.The White House said Tuesday that Dr. Rahul Gupta will be the first physician to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the “drug czar.”The nomination drew bipartisan praise from West Virginia officials. Republican Gov. Jim Justice called it “great news,” and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the pick “means someone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis, especially in West Virginia, will be coordinating the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation.”“Dr. Gupta will bring over a decade of extensive experience combatting the drug epidemic to ONDCP – the office charged with addressing the drug epidemic that has killed over 90,000 Americans just last year,” Manchin said in a statement.Gupta most recently served as the chief medical and health officer at March of Dimes.

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

WASHINGTON — “A disservice to the country.” “Inaccurate disinformation.” “Literally killing people.”For months, the Biden White House refrained from criticizing Republican officials who played down the importance of coronavirus vaccinations or sought to make political hay of the federal government’s all-out effort to drive shots into arms. Not any longer.With the COVID-19 vaccination rate plateauing across the country, the White House is returning fire at those they see as spreading harmful misinformation or fear about the shots.When South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tried this week to block door-to-door efforts to drive up the vaccination rate in his state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not mince words in her reaction.“The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people, so maybe they should consider that,” she said Friday.While 67% of American adults have gotten at least one dose, officials are increasingly worried about vast geographic disparity in vaccination rates, and the emergence of what some experts warn could be two dramatically different realities for the country in the coming months: High vaccine uptake and lower caseloads in more Democratic-leaning parts of the country, and fresh hot spots and the development of dangerous variants in more GOP-leaning areas.In the early months of the administration, the White House largely declined to criticize state and local officials’ handling of their vaccination programs, eager to maintain their buy-in and to prevent the politicization of the lifesaving campaign.The recent change in tone comes after some GOP officials criticized President Joe Biden for calling for a door-to-door campaign to spread information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines in hopes it would encourage more people to get vaccinated.“Now we need to go to community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oftentimes, door-to-door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people” who need to be vaccinated, Biden said Tuesday.The grassroots component of the vaccination campaign has been in operation since April, when supplies of shots began outpacing demand. It was outlined and funded by Congress in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March and overwhelmingly is carried out by local officials and private sector workers and volunteers.But some in the GOP saw a political opening, catering to the party’s small-government roots and libertarian wing.“The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you’re vaccinated,” tweeted Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. “What’s next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?”McMaster asked his state’s health department to bar state and local health groups from “the use of the Biden Administration’s ‘targeted’ ‘door to door’ tactics.”“A South Carolinian’s decision to get vaccinated is a personal one for them to make and not the government’s,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the department. “Enticing, coercing, intimidating, mandating, or pressuring anyone to take the vaccine is a bad policy which will deteriorate the public’s trust and confidence in the State’s vaccination efforts.”In Missouri, meanwhile, GOP Gov. Mike Parson tweeted: “I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!”Earlier in the week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to Biden condemning the new strategy.For the usually reserved Biden White House, which has long harbored private frustrations about some states’ laggard vaccination programs but refused to condemn them publicly for fear of playing up political divides in public health, it was a bridge too far.“For those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.Months ago, the Biden White House refrained from responding when officials criticized its vaccine allocation strategy of sending more doses directly to pharmacies instead of through state health departments after the former strategy proved more effective. It largely kept quiet as it watched officials sow fears of vaccine “passports” and assiduously avoided engaging publicly with fringe lawmakers who promoted vaccine skepticism.The new public expression of frustration comes amid lingering disbelief that tens of millions of Americans continue to refuse to get vaccinated, needlessly extending the pandemic and costing lives, as government health officials emphasize that nearly all serious cases and deaths are now preventable.White House officials are quick to point out that their criticism is not related to the officials’ political affiliation but to their rhetoric. They credit effective communication and leadership on the vaccines by GOP officials including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. But they continue to be concerned that some GOP officials are seeking to boost their own fortunes by feeding into doubts about the vaccination.Psaki on Thursday rebutted some allegations about the door-knocking program, noting that in most cases: “They are not members of the government. They are not federal government employees. They are volunteers. They are clergy. They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking.”Acknowledging the rhetoric has been “a bit frustrating to us,” she also noted that there are indications the door-knocking has helped promote shots in areas lagging behind the rest of the country. “Alabama: The adult vaccination rate increased by 3.9%; 149,000 additional adults got their first dose in June,” she said, adding that Florida saw an increase of 4.4% and Georgia of 3.5%.“This is important work that’s leading to more vaccinations,” said Zients, “and it’s done by people who care about the health of their family, friends and neighbors.”

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

WASHINGTON — “A disservice to the country.” “Inaccurate disinformation.” “Literally killing people.”For months, the Biden White House refrained from criticizing Republican officials who played down the importance of coronavirus vaccinations or sought to make political hay of the federal government’s all-out effort to drive shots into arms. Not any longer.With the COVID-19 vaccination rate plateauing across the country, the White House is returning fire at those they see as spreading harmful misinformation or fear about the shots.When South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tried this week to block door-to-door efforts to drive up the vaccination rate in his state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not mince words in her reaction.“The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people, so maybe they should consider that,” she said Friday.While 67% of American adults have gotten at least one dose, officials are increasingly worried about vast geographic disparity in vaccination rates, and the emergence of what some experts warn could be two dramatically different realities for the country in the coming months: High vaccine uptake and lower caseloads in more Democratic-leaning parts of the country, and fresh hot spots and the development of dangerous variants in more GOP-leaning areas.In the early months of the administration, the White House largely declined to criticize state and local officials’ handling of their vaccination programs, eager to maintain their buy-in and to prevent the politicization of the lifesaving campaign.The recent change in tone comes after some GOP officials criticized President Joe Biden for calling for a door-to-door campaign to spread information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines in hopes it would encourage more people to get vaccinated.“Now we need to go to community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oftentimes, door-to-door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people” who need to be vaccinated, Biden said Tuesday.The grassroots component of the vaccination campaign has been in operation since April, when supplies of shots began outpacing demand. It was outlined and funded by Congress in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March and overwhelmingly is carried out by local officials and private sector workers and volunteers.But some in the GOP saw a political opening, catering to the party’s small-government roots and libertarian wing.“The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you’re vaccinated,” tweeted Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. “What’s next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?”McMaster asked his state’s health department to bar state and local health groups from “the use of the Biden Administration’s ‘targeted’ ‘door to door’ tactics.”“A South Carolinian’s decision to get vaccinated is a personal one for them to make and not the government’s,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the department. “Enticing, coercing, intimidating, mandating, or pressuring anyone to take the vaccine is a bad policy which will deteriorate the public’s trust and confidence in the State’s vaccination efforts.”In Missouri, meanwhile, GOP Gov. Mike Parson tweeted: “I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!”Earlier in the week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to Biden condemning the new strategy.For the usually reserved Biden White House, which has long harbored private frustrations about some states’ laggard vaccination programs but refused to condemn them publicly for fear of playing up political divides in public health, it was a bridge too far.“For those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.Months ago, the Biden White House refrained from responding when officials criticized its vaccine allocation strategy of sending more doses directly to pharmacies instead of through state health departments after the former strategy proved more effective. It largely kept quiet as it watched officials sow fears of vaccine “passports” and assiduously avoided engaging publicly with fringe lawmakers who promoted vaccine skepticism.The new public expression of frustration comes amid lingering disbelief that tens of millions of Americans continue to refuse to get vaccinated, needlessly extending the pandemic and costing lives, as government health officials emphasize that nearly all serious cases and deaths are now preventable.White House officials are quick to point out that their criticism is not related to the officials’ political affiliation but to their rhetoric. They credit effective communication and leadership on the vaccines by GOP officials including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. But they continue to be concerned that some GOP officials are seeking to boost their own fortunes by feeding into doubts about the vaccination.Psaki on Thursday rebutted some allegations about the door-knocking program, noting that in most cases: “They are not members of the government. They are not federal government employees. They are volunteers. They are clergy. They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking.”Acknowledging the rhetoric has been “a bit frustrating to us,” she also noted that there are indications the door-knocking has helped promote shots in areas lagging behind the rest of the country. “Alabama: The adult vaccination rate increased by 3.9%; 149,000 additional adults got their first dose in June,” she said, adding that Florida saw an increase of 4.4% and Georgia of 3.5%.“This is important work that’s leading to more vaccinations,” said Zients, “and it’s done by people who care about the health of their family, friends and neighbors.”

Biden sees virus ‘independence,’ but COVID takes no holiday

Biden sees virus ‘independence,’ but COVID takes no holiday

WASHINGTON — After nearly six months in office, grappling with a pandemic every step of that way, President Joe Biden was determined to party.“This is a holiday weekend,” Biden declared on Friday as he parried journalists’ “negative” questions about the ongoing U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, “I’m going to be celebrating it.”Biden wants Americans to celebrate too, after enduring 16 months of disruption in the pandemic and more than 605,000 deaths. The White House encouraged gatherings and fireworks displays all around the country to mark — as though ripped from a Hollywood script — the nation’s “independence” from the virus.And there is much to cheer: Cases and deaths from COVID-19 are at or near record lows since the outbreak began, thanks to the robust U.S. vaccination program. Businesses and restaurants are open, hiring is picking up and travel is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels.Still, it’s hardly a “Mission Accomplished” moment. More than 200 Americans still die each day from COVID-19, a more infectious variant of the virus is spreading rapidly at home and abroad, and tens of millions of Americans have chosen not to get the lifesaving vaccines.“If you’ve had the vaccine, you’re doing great,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease physician at the John Cochran VA Medical Center and St. Louis Board of Health. “If you haven’t had the vaccine, you should be alarmed and that’s just the bottom line, there’s no easy way to cut it.”“But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this country is in a significantly better place,” she said.Biden, who is set to host the largest event yet of his presidency on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday, sees this as a long-awaited opportunity to highlight the success of the vaccination campaign he championed. It will be the clearest indication yet that the U.S. has moved into a new phase of virus response, shifting from a national emergency to a localized crisis of individual responsibility and from vaccinating Americans to promoting global health.“The Fourth of July this year is different than the Fourth of July of last year,” Biden said Friday. “And it’s going to be better next year.”Top officials in the Biden administration fanned out across the country over the weekend to promote the vastly improved virus situation under the banner, “America’s Back Together.”Never mind that the president has come up short of the vaccination goal he had set for the Fourth with great fanfare.Biden had hoped to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated by Sunday, but clocked in at about 67%, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials insisted that the miss would have little practical effect on Americans’ ability to mark the Independence Day holiday.What concerns them more is the emergence of two disparate realities in the U.S.: the gap between heavily vaccinated communities where the virus is dying out and lesser-vaccinated ones where the new delta variant is already taking hold.About 1,000 counties have a vaccination rate below 30%, and the federal government is warning that they could become the next hot spots as virus restrictions ease.The administration is sending “surge” teams to Colorado and Missouri. Additional squads of infectious disease experts, public health professionals and doctors and nurses are getting ready to assist in additional locations with a combination of low vaccination rates and rising cases.Overall, the vastly improved American landscape stands in stark contrast with much of the rest of the world, where there remain vast vaccine deserts and wide community spread that could open the door to even more dangerous variants. The Biden administration is increasingly turning the federal response to the complicated logistics of sending excess U.S. vaccines abroad in an effort to assist other nations in beating back the pandemic.With U.S. demand for vaccines falling even as they have been widely available for months, and as governments and businesses dangled an array of incentives at Americans to get a shot, officials are increasingly emphasizing that the consequences of disease now largely reflect the individual choices of those who are not yet vaccinated.”The suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable,” said the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.When asked about the potential risks of holding gatherings around July Fourth in areas where there are large pockets of unvaccinated individuals, White House press secretary Jen Psaki countered that “if individuals are vaccinated in those areas, then they are protected.”At least 1,000 service members and first responders were expected on the South Lawn for a cookout and fireworks viewing, the White House said. The outdoor event “is being done in the right way,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said in television interviews Sunday, and “consistent” with CDC guidelines. The White House was not requiring vaccinations but was asking guests to get a COVID-19 test and to wear a mask if they are not fully vaccinated.“For as much work there still is to do, it’s so important to celebrate the victories,” Davis said. “I’m OK with us having those pockets of joy and celebration as long as we still wake up the next day and continue to go to work and prioritize equity in vaccine distribution.”

Biden behind on global vaccine sharing, cites local hurdles

Biden behind on global vaccine sharing, cites local hurdles

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden came up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed the pace of U.S. vaccine diplomacy.Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a share of the excess COVID-19 vaccine doses, the U.S. has shipped fewer than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries, according to an Associated Press tally. The White House says more will be sent in the coming days and stresses that Biden has done everything in his power to meet the commitment.It’s not for lack of doses. All the American shots are ready to ship, the White House said. Rather, it’s taking more time than anticipated to sort through a complex web of legal requirements, health codes, customs clearances, cold-storage chains, language barriers and delivery programs. Complicating matters even further is that no two shipments are alike.One country requires an act of its Cabinet to approve the vaccine donation, others require inspectors to conduct their own safety checks on the U.S. doses, and still others have yet to develop critical aspects of their vaccine distribution plans to ensure the doses can reach people’s arms before they spoil.A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to share internal arrangements, said that as of Wednesday, all intended recipient countries had received formal U.S. offers of a specific number and type of vaccine, and all legal and logistical hurdles on the U.S. side had been cleared.The White House declined to specify which nations were grappling with which local hurdles, saying it is working with recipient nations on an individual basis to remove obstacles to delivery.“What we’ve found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply — we have plenty of doses to share with the world — but this is a Herculean logistical challenge,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.It took months for the U.S. to get its domestic vaccination program running at full throttle, and officials noted that Biden only shifted the focus of the nation’s COVID-19 response toward the global vaccination campaign less than two months ago.Biden announced the 80 million target on May 17, saying, “This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date — five times more than any other country — more than Russia and China.” Even while missing his goal, Biden has made the U.S. the largest global vaccine donor, delivering more doses than either Russia or China, who have at times sought to leverage their vaccines for geopolitical gain.The 80 million doses are meant as a down payment on a far larger plan to purchase and donate 500 million vaccine doses for the world over the next year. That plan, relying on a purchase contract from Pfizer that will begin delivering doses in August, remains on track, officials said.Last week the White House broadly outlined its plans for all 80 million doses, but it is not publicly releasing a list of how many and of what type of vaccines each recipient will get until the doses are on the way.The U.S. recipients to date are Colombia (2.5 million Johnson & Johnson doses), Bangladesh (2.5 million Moderna), Peru (2 million Pfizer), Pakistan (2.5 million Moderna), Honduras (1.5 million Moderna), Brazil (3 million J&J), South Korea (1 million J&J), Taiwan (2.5 million Moderna), Canada (1 million Moderna, 1.5 million AstraZeneca) and Mexico (1.35 million J&J, 2.5 million AstraZeneca). All told, it’s enough vaccine to fully protect 15.9 million people.Biden initially committed to providing other nations with all 60 million U.S.-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S. but is widely approved around the world. The AstraZeneca doses have been held up for export by a two-month safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.Given declining domestic demand for vaccine doses, the Biden administration expects to be able to meet the full 80 million commitment without the AstraZeneca doses, but rather from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines.The U.S.-approved shots — particularly the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna — appear to be more effective than other available vaccines against the virus, especially emerging strains of the virus that are more contagious and harmful, like the delta variant first identified in India.

Page 1 of 212