U.S. Set to Send Millions of COVID Vaccines to Countries in Need
WEDNESDAY, June 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The United States will soon be sending millions of coronavirus vaccine doses around the world, including Latin America, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Tuesday.
Still, exactly where those doses will go and when they will be delivered to countries that desperately need them was still unclear.
"Sometime in the next week to two weeks, we will be announcing the process by which we will distribute those vaccines," Blinken said during a media briefing in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Washington Post reported.
President Joe Biden has promised to give 80 million doses to other countries by the end of June. But no further details have been offered, as stiff competition worldwide for vaccines has left many developing countries lagging far behind developed ones.
In Costa Rica, the country of 5 million people recently imposed nationwide driving restrictions to lessen the strain on hospitals overloaded with COVID-19 patients. Both Blinken and Costa Rican President Alvarado Quesada were asked during the media briefing whether Costa Rica would receive doses this summer, the Post reported.
"We look forward to what the United States is going to announce in the matter of vaccines," Quesada told reporters at San Jose's presidential palace. "We hope to be part of the countries that receive that."
In Washington, the distribution of vaccines to Latin America by China and Russia has been viewed as part of a strategic competition.
Beijing has shipped more than 165 million doses of its vaccine to Latin America and the Caribbean. Some Latin American countries now rely heavily on the Chinese-made vaccines, including El Salvador, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, the Post said.
Meanwhile, the United States has focused on vaccinating its own population, distributing only 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada and Mexico while committing $4 billion to Covax, the international platform supported by the World Health Organization that donates vaccines to countries in need, the Post reported.
The coronavirus pandemic initially damaged China's public image after it became the global epicenter of the outbreak, but the speedy distribution of its vaccines has shifted the conversation despite some questions about the efficacy of its jabs, the newspaper said.
On Tuesday, Blinken stressed the United States would not attach strings to its vaccine donations, the Post reported.
"We will focus on equity," he said. "We'll focus on science. We'll work in coordination with Covax and we will distribute vaccines without political requirements of those receiving them.
Americans on the Move as Post-Pandemic Life Begins
Americans flocked to beaches, parks and stadiums over Memorial Day weekend, as new coronavirus cases dropped to levels not seen since March 2020.
With nearly 50 percent of the country fully vaccinated and the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases falling to about 12,000 per day, Americans showed they were eager to embrace post-pandemic life.
The Indianapolis 500 became the largest sporting event since the pandemic began, with 135,000 fans in the stands on Sunday, CBS News reported.
Meanwhile, as summer camps prepare to reopen, the CDC issued new guidance that all campers and staffers can shed their masks when outside, but those who haven't been vaccinated still need to mask up indoors.
Last summer, 5-year-old Brody Narod stayed home, but Brody's mother is now ready to send him to camp.
"He's super excited to be coming back to camp," Brody's mom, Kim, told CBS News. "I mean, he says, 'When is camp coming? When is it coming?' I said, 'Soon, soon, soon.'"
But summer camp sign-ups weren't the only sign that Americans are itching to get out and about.
Nearly 2 million people passed through airport security checkpoints Friday, a new daily pandemic record, while 6 million people were expected to go through airports over the weekend, CBS News reported.
More than 37 million Americans were projected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, an increase of 60 percent compared with this time last year, which registered the lowest number of Memorial Day travelers on record, the AAA said in a news release. Just 23 million people traveled last year for the holiday, the company said.
Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel, said that "Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day."
On Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told ABC News that he was cautiously optimistic about what the surge in travel means for the transportation system, but he emphasized that travelers were still required to wear masks on planes, trains and buses.
"We're not back to normal yet, we're not out of the woods yet as a country with this pandemic, but we're seeing such progress," Buttigieg said. "We are coming out of one of the biggest shocks, perhaps the biggest shock that the modern American transportation system has ever seen in terms of demand, schedules, all of these things changing. The system is getting back into gear."
Poll shows 70% percent vaccinated by summer
Seventy percent of American adults could be vaccinated by this summer, a new poll suggests.
The survey results bode well for the country and likely mean that President Joe Biden's goal of 70 percent vaccine coverage for adults by July 4 will be reached.
The Kaiser Family Foundation's latest survey found 62 percent of respondents said they had received at least one dose of a vaccine, up from 56 percent in April. Even better, about a third of those had taken the stance of "wait-and-see" said they had already made vaccine appointments or planned to do so soon.
Vaccine expert Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, was heartened by the results.
"I think there are many people who were on the fence who were worried about things moving too rapidly and about possible side effects, but those concerns are being allayed as they see more of their friends and acquaintances celebrating getting vaccinated," Schaffner told The New York Times. "They're getting that growing sense of comfort and reassurance that 'people like me' are getting vaccinated."
The greatest increase in vaccination rates from April to May were seen among two important groups: Latino adults (47% to 57%) and adults without college degrees (48% to 55%).
But more good news was to be found in the poll: Forty percent of parents of adolescents said their child had already gotten at least one dose or would be getting one soon. On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and older.
But parents of younger children were more guarded, with only about a quarter expressing a willingness to get their children vaccinated as soon as the shots become authorized for them, the poll found.
While public health experts acknowledged the continuing improvement in vaccination rates, they noted that it meant the pool of willing adults was shrinking.
"At this point, there's almost no low-hanging fruit, but there's a path toward a slow-but-steady increase in vaccination rates through improved access, information, persuasion and incentives," said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count neared 33.3 million, while the death toll passed 595,000, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, more than 171.2 million cases had been reported by Wednesday, with over 3.5 million people dead from COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: Washington Post; CBS News; ABC News; The New York Times