US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday, which his administration says will ensure that "Americans receive priority access" to the new coronavirus vaccines procured by the US government before they are made available to other nations.
A senior administration official confirmed that the vaccine will be given for free to US citizens.
"No American will have to pay a penny out of his or her pocket," the official told reporters on Monday.
The Trump administration said it is confident the US will have enough doses of vaccine to inoculate everyone who wants it by mid-2021.
The executive order also sets up a framework for US government agencies to help other countries procure the vaccines once domestic demand is met. There is also a plan to donate vaccine doses to poor countries.
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The order, in line with Trump's "America First" policy, was signed during a summit on Operation Warp Speed — the White House's vaccine program.
However, it remains unclear how the order would be enforced.
On Tuesday morning, Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the vaccine program, was unable to explain the order to ABC's "Good Morning America."
"Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this," Slaoui said.
"We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about," he added.
At the summit, the administration explained its distribution strategy and educated the public about the vaccines, attempting to instill confidence so that people agree to be inoculated when doses are available.
Here's a roundup of other developments around the world.
South Korea has signed deals with four vaccine companies, its health minister said on Tuesday. It will purchase 20 million doses each from AstraZeneca, BioNTech-Pfizer, and Moderna and another 4 million doses from Johnson and Johnson's Janssen. Together, these will cover up to 34 million people, more than half of its population.
Additionally, it will procure doses for 10 million people through COVAX, a global vaccine project.
India is accelerating its review of vaccines developed by BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca/Oxford to authorize for emergency use. Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech also filed an application seeking emergency-use authorization for its vaccine.
India, the world's second-hardest hit country by the pandemic, is pinning its hopes on the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer, which is responsible for manufacturing and distributing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.
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Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a fresh economic stimulus package of 73.6 trillion yen ($708 billion, €584.5 billion) to accelerate the country's recovery from the coronavirus slump.
Suga's cabinet will endorse the stimulus package on Tuesday, bringing its total combined value of pandemic-related stimulus to about $3 trillion.
Hong Kong will ban dining in restaurants after 6 pm to curb the spread of coronavirus infections in the densely packed financial hub, its leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.
Germany requires tougher measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told members of her Christian Democrat (CDU) party on Monday, adding that existing measures would not get the country through the winter.
Merkel said regions with high coronavirus rates needed to tighten social contact restrictions before Christmas, according to sources at a CDU meeting.
Calls have grown across the country for a nationwide harder lockdown, with Germany's influential National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina, saying that a "hard lockdown" between December 24 and January 10 was necessary and that "public life should broadly come to a halt in all of Germany" for at least two weeks after Christmas.
The United Kingdom began the world's first rollout of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock volunteering to take it live on television to assuage any doubts over its rapid approval.
Frontline health staff, people over the age of 80, and care home workers have been prioritized. In England, 50 hospitals have been initially chosen to serve as hubs for the launch of the largest immunization program in British history.
Brazil is in advanced talks with Pfizer to buy 70 million doses of its vaccine developed along with BioNTech, the country's health ministry said, adding that an agreement may be signed this week.
The ministry said in a statement that the vaccine will be delivered next year.
President Jair Bolsonaro, earlier on Monday said that the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to all Brazilians will get the vaccine free of charge once it was approved by the health regulator Anvisa.
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New York on Monday reopened public elementary schools. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said new testing protocols made it safe to reopen classrooms, in part because few infections have been linked to transmission inside schools.
About 190,000 students are eligible to return. Middle schools and high schools will remain all-remote at least until after the holiday break.
The US regulator, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gave the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine a thumbs up, confirming that it strongly protects against COVID-19.
The FDA said there were no specific safety concerns that would prevent the mRNA vaccine being approved. But it cautioned that there was currently not enough data to draw conclusions about its safety in pregnant women, children under 16, or people with compromised immune systems.
wmr,adi/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)