Vaccination race enlists grassroots to fight mistrust; Biden doubles dose goal for first 100 days

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Top U.S. health officials say they’re in a race to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible as COVID-19 variants spread, mask and distancing rules are relaxed, and Americans crave a return to normalcy.

As part of these efforts, the Biden administration announced Thursday it will invest nearly $10 billion to expand vaccine access in communities of color, rural areas, low-income populations and other underserved communities. Some of the money will go to community health centers. Funding comes mostly from the American Rescue Plan.

While the U.S. is vaccinating roughly 2.5 million people daily and nearly 1 in 3 adults have received at least one shot, roughly that many say they are skeptical or won’t get vaccinated.

Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that number is unlikely to prevent effective control of the virus. To make sure it doesn’t, authorities are working to change minds and boost access in minority communities where skepticism is among the hurdles to vaccination.

In other developments:

  • President Joe Biden doubled his original goal on COVID-19 vaccines by pledging that the nation will administer 200 million doses by the end of his first 100 days in office. The administration had met Biden’s initial goal of 100 million doses earlier this month — before even his 60th day in office — as the president pushes to defeat a pandemic that has killed more than 545,000 Americans.
  • The New York attorney general’s office called on ethics investigators Thursday to look into reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others connected to him received special access to coronavirus tests a year ago, when such testing was scarce.
  • AstraZeneca insisted that its COVID-19 vaccine provides strong protection even after counting additional illnesses in its U.S. study, as the drugmaker responded to concerns raised by American officials in an unusually public rebuke that threatened to further erode confidence in the shot.
  • With confidence rising that the end of the pandemic is growing closer, airlines are starting to revive flights that vanished last year as people cancelled vacations and business trips.
  • California will start vaccinating anyone 16 and over against the coronavirus starting in three weeks, expanding eligibility to the shots along with a host of other states as a long-awaited boost in vaccine supplies is in sight.
  • The United States says it is giving $15 million to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, a sharp reversal from the Trump administration, which cut off almost all aid to the Palestinians.
  • The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide has announced supply delays from an Indian manufacturer, in a major setback for the ambitious rollout aimed to help low- and middle-income countries fight the pandemic.
  • New York City is taking steps toward the reopening of the city’s theaters, creating vaccination and testing sites for stage workers in a bid to restore a key part of New York’s draw.

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