Pentagon will deploy troops to assist COVID-19 vaccine drive

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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon will deploy troops to assist in getting Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said Friday.

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.

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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% of the U.S. population.

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To reach widespread or "herd" immunity — about 70% to 85% 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.

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