The Pentagon will deploy troops to assist getting Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said Friday.
Watch Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby’s remarks in the player above.
Coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It means about 1,000 active duty military personnel will deploy to help state vaccination centers.
President Joe Biden has called for setting up 100 mass vaccination centers around the country within a month. Two are opening in California, and Slavitt said military personnel will arrive at those centers in a little over a week.
The Pentagon has scheduled a news briefing later Friday to provide more information about the military role.
Slavitt said support from the military will play a critical role in supporting vaccination sites, helping administer thousands of shots a day.
Currently about 6.9 million Americans have received the full two-dose regimen required to get maximum protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. That translates to about 2 percent of the U.S. population.
To reach widespread or “herd” immunity — about 70 percent to 85 percent of Americans must be vaccinated. The U.S. is in a race with the virus, which is also spawning mutations that may prove resistant to vaccines.
The White House also announced the administration is using the Defense Production Act to help bolster vaccine production, at-home coronavirus testing kits and surgical gloves.
Tim Manning, the White House’s COVID-19 supply coordinator, says the administration will help Pfizer clear a bottleneck around capabilities with vaccine production by giving the drugmaker first priority to needed supplies.
He also says the U.S. is also investing in six manufacturers to develop at-home and point-of-care tests for the coronavirus, with the goal of producing 60 million tests by the end of the summer.
Manning says, “The country is well behind where we need to be in testing,” and the new contracts will help boost supply.
Manning expects the nation will produce more than 1 billion gloves a month by the end of the year.