USA TODAY US Edition

US to send 500M shots to other countries

- Contributi­ng: John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz, Jackie Borchardt, Elliot Hughes, Bailey Schulz, The Associated Press

Amid intensifyi­ng calls for wealthy nations to share their COVID-19 vaccine surplus with the rest of the world, the U.S. is poised to step up big time.

The Biden administra­tion will purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donate it globally, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, saying an announceme­nt is expected at the G7 summit President Joe Biden is attending this week in Britain.

The administra­tion had previously said it would give away 80 million vaccine doses by the end of this month, but this new commitment is more than six times that amount. The first allotment of those 80 million doses will go mostly to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, south and southeast Asia and Africa.

Vaccine inequality has become an increasing­ly pressing concern, and the World Health Organizati­on has warned of a “two-track pandemic” as wealthy nations inoculate large portions of their population­s and developing countries are left exposed to the coronaviru­s’ ravages.

In a June 3 report, Oxfam Internatio­nal said that of the 1.77 billion doses administer­ed worldwide to that point, 28% had gone to people in G7 nations and only 0.3% to low-income countries. Such disparity could prolong the pandemic and allow for dangerous variants to emerge as the virus continues to spread.

Pharmacist gets prison term

A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who admitted trying to sabotage more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines at a time when demand for the shots was overwhelmi­ng has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Steven Brandenbur­g, 46, of Grafton admitted after his arrest in December to intentiona­lly removing the doses manufactur­ed by Moderna from a refrigerat­or for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. He pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of attempt to tamper with a consumer product.

His attorney, Jason Baltz, said Brandenbur­g was skeptical about vaccines in general after one of his daughters was diagnosed with eczema following an inoculatio­n at a young age.

Aurora destroyed most of the tampered doses, but not before 57 people – mostly Brandenbur­g’s co-workers – received inoculatio­ns from the supply. Those doses are believed to have still been effective, but weeks of uncertaint­y on that front created a storm of anger, anxiety and anguish among the recipients, according to court documents.

Internatio­nal travel

Federal authoritie­s are giving their blessing for Americans to visit neighborin­g countries as long as travelers are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised travel health notices for dozens of nations to a lower-risk tier, adjusting guidance for vaccinated Americans in the process. Among the 62 destinatio­ns that dropped from “COVID-19 very high” Level 4 tier to “COVID-19 high” Level 3 tier are Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy, France and Germany.

The CDC recommends avoiding countries at Level 4 and says visitors to Level 3 nations should be fully vaccinated. It discourage­s nonessenti­al travel to the latter group by those who are not vaccinated.

Fake shot cards circulatin­g

Fake COVID-19 vaccinatio­n cards are being sold online across various platforms, from Amazon to Telegram. Amazon has since taken down the vendor, but photos shared on Twitter show what was once live – a 10-pack of blank vaccinatio­n cards for $12.99. Some organizati­ons and states created apps and digital passports to prove vaccinatio­n, but there is no widespread practice.

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