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U.S. Will Provide Covid-19 Vaccines to 550,000 South Korean Troops Engaged With U.S. Forces

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President Biden said Friday the U.S. will provide Covid-19 vaccines to 550,000 South Korean troops working in close contact with American forces in the region.

Mr. Biden made the announcement during a news conference at the White House with South Korean President

Moon Jae-in.

Both leaders also said they would forge a partnership on vaccine manufacturing, but stopped short of providing details.

“We, with advanced capabilities, have an obligation to do everything we can to provide for protection of the entire world,” Mr. Biden said, while adding he saw the potential to produce another billion vaccine doses from the second half of 2021 and into 2022.

Mr. Moon said there would be a comprehensive partnership between the two countries to boost manufacturing of the vaccine and its materials. Covid-19 vaccine supply has been a priority for Mr. Moon during his four-day visit to Washington, with less than 3% of the South Korean population fully vaccinated.

A senior administration official said the vaccines for South Korean service members would be donated and that Mr. Biden’s decision was part of an effort to protect U.S. troops working in close quarters with their counterparts on the Korean peninsula.

“During times of military conflict, Korean forces are under operational control of the U.S. government, so it is in the interest of the United States that we offer [Republic of Korea] military personnel the life-saving protection offered by the vaccine,” the official said.

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden said the U.S. would send 80 million doses overseas by the end of June amid growing pressure to help developing countries inoculate their populations against the virus. Those doses will include 60 million of the

AstraZeneca

vaccine, which hasn’t been authorized for use in the U.S., and a total of 20 million produced by

Moderna Inc.,

Pfizer Inc.

and

Johnson & Johnson,

all of which are being administered domestically.

The Biden administration has said the doses will be shared both through the international vaccination initiative Covax and directly with other countries. The White House has yet to publicly identify recipients. The administration previously said it would send a combined four million AstraZeneca doses to Canada and Mexico.

Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at [email protected]

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