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The U.S. has shipped 500 million COVID vaccine doses globally, but there's work ahead

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The U.S. hit a milestone today in the global fight against COVID-19. The State Department says the U.S. has now shipped 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 100 countries around the world. For more on that effort, we're joined now by Mary Beth Goodman, the State Department's acting coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security. Welcome.

MARY BETH GOODMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

CHANG: Well, thank you for being with us. So I just want to add some context to the data I just read. I should mention that only about 14% of people in low-income countries have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far, according to the group Our World in Data. So there is still a long way to go. Can you just tell us how many of these 500 million doses have actually been shots into arms so far?

GOODMAN: First and foremost, it has been an extraordinary amount of work on behalf of the U.S. government across numerous government agencies to get 500 million doses delivered to more than 110 countries and economies around the world. Unfortunately, we know that this virus does not recognize borders. We know that we have to do our part to help get more people vaccinated so that we're safer here in the United States so that doses delivered turn into shots in arms.

CHANG: Right. But you mentioned doses delivered. So how many of these doses delivered, as far as you know, have been actual shots into arms? Do we have that data? Does the U.S. know?

GOODMAN: We actually - we don't have that data, unfortunately, because it changes so much day by day and even hour by hour. We're doing an incredible amount of work to make sure that doses are not just landing at airports and ports, but they're actually turning into vaccinations that are going into arms.

CHANG: Right. Well, one of the challenges of getting shots into arms is obviously lack of funds to administer doses in these various countries. How is the U.S. addressing that piece of it?

GOODMAN: So we've had a significant amount of support that has been provided by Congress to allow us to work and make sure these doses are getting into arms. We do have an ongoing need for additional funding. There is a supplemental that is pending in Congress at the moment, which would allow us to continue this lifesaving work to make sure that we're doing our part to help get more doses into arms.

CHANG: OK. Well, in terms of getting more people vaccinated around the world, I want to focus in particular now on Ukraine. We know just about a third of the people there are vaccinated against COVID. Do we know how this war is affecting COVID rates now in Ukraine and the surrounding areas where people are fleeing to?

GOODMAN: We were seeing an uptick in cases in the Ukraine from the omicron variant prior to the start of Russia's aggression there. Unfortunately, the testing and reporting has decreased because of the situation on the ground. So we are concerned that the people sheltering together in these bomb shelters will cause a higher spread of COVID, as well as other infectious diseases.

CHANG: I mean, it does raise the very critical question, how does the U.S. provide aid to a health system that has been severely disrupted and in some places under siege?

GOODMAN: Well, this isn't our first time having to do this. We are always on the ground trying to help, you know, in various countries where we've seen situations like this start. We've announced more than $186 million in additional humanitarian assistance to make sure they have some of the urgent trauma kits that they need to deal with those, unfortunately, being wounded in battle but also to make sure that they've got some of the basic antibacterial needs, the medicines, that type of thing. The supplies are getting in. It's not as smooth as it needs to be, but we're working in a war zone. And we are still continuing to get some of those essential components in to the doctors and the hospitals and meet some of the humanitarian needs that way.

CHANG: Mary Beth Goodman is acting coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security at the State Department. Thank you very much for joining us today.

GOODMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.