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'This is war time': White House ramps up COVID-19 vaccine roll out

The COVID-19 response team announced that millions of vaccine doses have been procured, and a sharp ramp-up of vaccine sites is now underway across the country.

WASHINGTON — The White House COVID-19 response team and federal public health officials said Wednesday morning that the Biden administration is pushing for a sharp ramp up in vaccine roll out in the coming days and weeks. 

The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the U.S. could see significant steps toward a return to the pre-pandemic normal, even before the country reaches coronavirus herd immunity.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says best estimates when enough people are immune to end the outbreak range between 70-85% of the population -- a figure expected to be attained by late summer or early fall.

He says as the pace of vaccination ramps up and the most vulnerable to the virus are protected, some government restrictions could be lifted.

Said Fauci: “You don’t have to wait until you get full herd immunity to get a really profound effect on what you can do.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cautioned only about 10% of the population is fully vaccinated, but her agency anticipated loosening federal guidelines as more people receive shots.

On Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden was set to announce that the U.S. is buying an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The drugmaker is already obligated to supply 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of June. The additional vaccine would be delivered in the months following. A White House official previewed the news on the condition of anonymity before the president’s remarks.

The U.S. is set to receive enough doses of the three approved vaccines by the middle of May to cover all adults. The surplus would ensure supply to cover young adults and children, pending the result of safety and efficacy trials. They could also be used as potential “boosters” to further protect against emerging virus variants or be shared with allies overseas once Americans are protected. 

The president is scheduled to deliver a primetime address on Thursday to mark one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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