WASHINGTON; The US has purchased an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, with the shots set to be delivered by July, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.
That brings the current US supply of Covid-19 vaccine to 400 million doses -- half from Pfizer and half from Moderna -- allowing it to immunize 200 million people under the two-shot regimens.
"Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, with the balance of the 100 million doses to be delivered no later than July 31, 2021," the defense department said in a statement.
The agreement, which comes after reports the Trump administration had passed on the opportunity to secure more supply of the shot, "also includes options for an additional 400 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine," the defense department statement added.
The US is hoping to immunize 20 million people this month, with long-term care residents and health workers at the front of the line. On Sunday, an expert committee said that people 75 and older should be the next vaccinated along with 30 million "frontline essential workers," including teachers, grocery store employees and police.
"This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021," health secretary Alex Azar said in the statement.More than 40 countries are still banning or restricting travel from Britain in a bid to contain a new strain of the coronavirus believed to spread faster.
Scotland had already closed its border with the rest of the United Kingdom before the new strain was made public.Meanwhile, President Donald Trump late on Tuesday rejected a massive Covid economic relief package passed by Congress, branding it "a disgrace" in an act of political brinkmanship less than a month before he must leave office and when millions of Americans are suffering fallout from the pandemic.Trump dropped the bombshell via a pre-recorded statement made in the White House and sent out on Twitter.
It came just a day after his Republicans and the Democrats finally agreed overwhelmingly to a $900 billion bill meant to throw a lifeline to businesses and people struggling to keep heads above water.
In his address, Trump said he would refuse to accept the bill as it is and demanded changes, notably a big increase in the proposed $600 direct payments to less well-off Americans. "I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple," he said, referring to relief checks.
Tapping into his nationalist "America First" brand, Trump also castigated measures added onto the bill during complex negotiations that would provide funding for projects benefiting US partners abroad and other non-Covid related items like the environment.
"It really is a disgrace," he said. "I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and just send me a suitable bill."Europe on Wednesday began easing travel bans on Britain put in place to contain a new strain of Covid-19 that UK officials believe is spreading faster as WHO experts were set to meet on a response to the variant.
The discovery of the new coronavirus type set off alarm bells worldwide just as vaccines are being rolled out to halt a pandemic that has claimed more than 1.7 million lives since it began a year ago in China.
But the European Commission has urged EU nations to reopen their borders to Britain and replace the blockades with mandatory tests for arrivals. France’s relaxation of a 48-blockade meant stranded lorry drivers in the UK were finally offered a way home after thousands were blocked around the port of Dover for days.
Under France’s new rules, EU nationals and residents are allowed home with a negative Covid test, though Britons remain barred. But given the back-up, some truckers feared there was little chance of making it across the English Channel in time for the holidays.
"Home for Christmas? Forget it," said Laurent Beghin, a French trucker who delivered a cargo of paint to the UK on Sunday and was still stuck in England on Wednesday. The Netherlands also said it was lifting its travel ban on the UK Wednesday but noted that all passengers, including EU citizens, must have a recent negative test to enter.
In the meantime, scientists are still trying to forge a plan to control the Covid-19’s various strains, with Europe’s branch of the World Health Organization to meet Wednesday. WHO’s Europe director Hans Kluge wrote on Twitter that the organisation would "discuss strategies for testing, reducing transmission & communicating risks".
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