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1,000 U.S. troops to help in COVID-19 vaccinations

1,000 U.S. troops to help in COVID-19 vaccinations
The White House announced plans on Friday to deploy about 1,000 to assist with nationwide COVID-19 vaccinations, though the Pentagon is considering a FEMA request for as many as 10,000 troops. Photo by SSgt. Steven Tucker/National Guard

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- About 1,000 U.S. troops will assist in civilian vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt announced on Friday.

The Defense Department has approved plans Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to involve the U.S. military in the effort, which is expected to help speed distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

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Troops, grouped into five teams of nurses and medical staff chosen from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, will be ready for deployment within 96 hours. Up to 10,000 troops, possibly including reservists and National Guard members, could be made available if required.

The first team will arrive in California to begin operations around Feb. 15., Slavitt said, and will have additional vaccination missions assigned once they get there.

RELATED GAO finds 'critical gaps' in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The U.S. Northern Command, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been charged with establishing the logistics of the effort.

The plan represents a shift in the national vaccination strategy by President Joe Biden's administration. The previous administration relied on state-level decision-making in regard to vaccine distribution.

Earlier this week, the White House announced plans to open two federally run and funded vaccination sites, operated and funded by the federal government, in California.

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The Biden administration also said it will invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine production by pharmaceuticals maker Pfizer, and make more COVID-19 tests supplies and surgical gloves available.

Although U.S. death rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic fell 17 percent in the past week, over 5,000 people, a one-day record, died on Thursday of the virus and its complications.

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