The Pentagon next week will begin deploying more than 1,000 active duty troops to help deliver coronavirus vaccine shots, President Biden's administration announced Friday.
At a briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator Andy Slavitt said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's request to augment and expedite U.S. vaccine distribution was approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered 1,110 active duty personnel to support state vaccination sites.
The first wave of troops will arrive in California within the next 10 days to begin operations there by Feb. 15, Slavitt said, adding that additional vaccination missions will follow "soon."
Biden had called for setting up 100 mass vaccination centers.
"The military's critical role in supporting these sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day and ensure every American who wants a vaccine will receive one," he said.
Additional details, including what role the service members will play in the effort, were expected to be provided by the Defense Department at a separate briefing Friday afternoon.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration looks to accelerate the pace of vaccinations with the goal of providing shots to 100 million Americans in its first 100 days.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 57 million total doses of coronavirus vaccines have been distributed to date, and more than 35 million have been administered.
Both of the vaccines currently approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration — by Pfizer and Moderna — require two doses for a person to be considered fully vaccinated. A one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson could be approved within days.
Just 7 million Americans have received two doses — or about 2 percent of the U.S. population. To reach so-called herd immunity, health officials say between 75 percent and 80 percent of Americans must be vaccinated.
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