US deploying over 1,000 active-duty troops to deliver vaccine shots

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 1,100 active-duty troops to help deliver COVID-19 vaccine shots, the White House announced Friday.

White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said in a briefing that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s request to “augment and expedite vaccinations across the country.”

Austin sent the first group of active-duty personnel to support state vaccination sites in California. They’ll arrive within the next 10 days, Slavitt said.

The 1,100 active-duty members will be split up into five teams, two from the Army, and one each from the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps.

“The military’s critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day, and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine will receive one,” Slavitt said.

Earlier this week, Slavitt announced that the U.S. has awarded a more than $230 million contract to scale up production of an at-home coronavirus test manufactured by Ellume.

On Friday, Slavitt said six more companies will surge manufacturing of at-home kits to increase testing around the country.

“It wont be easy and it’s not happening overnight, but today’s announcement represents another step in the long journey back to normal life,” Slavitt said.

The Biden administration is also using the Defense Production Act to get Pfizer more equipment and supplies to ramp up vaccine production, according to Tim Manning, supply chain coordinator for the nation’s COVID-19 response.

“Right now, one of the factors straining increased manufacturing of vaccines is limited equipment and ingredients,” Manning said. “That’s why we’re leveraging the important power of the Defense Production Act.”

The act is also being used to help the U.S. produce more surgical gloves for frontline health care workers, in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign manufacturers.

“We’re already working to increase the availability of N95 masks to front line workers, but another critical area of concern we hear over and over is surgical gloves,” Manning said. “Right now we just don’t have enough gloves. We’re nearly 100% reliant on overseas manufacturers to export to us our country’s surgical gloves that protect health care workers. That’s unacceptable, and we’re using all of our authorities to fix it.”

The announcements come one day after Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. health regulators to authorize its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

The drugmaker’s application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows its Jan. 29 report, in which it said the vaccine had a 66% rate of preventing infections in its large global trial.

The Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate all the data behind the single-dose shot before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option in the U.S. The panel will meet Feb. 26.

J&J’s single-shot vaccine could simplify the U.S. immunization campaign, which is currently reliant on two-shot doses, amid concerns of emerging variants.

More than 57 million vaccine doses have been distributed with 35 million doses administered throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States has reported more than 26 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 455,000 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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