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Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" COVID vaccine distribution

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

  • "We remain in a dark winter," Biden said. "Things will get worse, before they get better."
  • "The policy changes that we are making will take time to show up in the COVID statistics."

The big picture: Thursday, Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief plan to confront the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus, including, roughly $20 billion for a national vaccination program, and another $140 billion for testing and other public health investments.

  • Biden plans to work with states on vaccine distribution, set up vaccination centers, activate pharmacies across the U.S. and use the full strength of the federal government” to ramp up vaccine production.a
  • He pledged to be “transparent” about where the U.S. stands in terms of its supply.
  • Biden also promised to reimburse states for the deployment of the National Guard to help administer vaccinations.
  • He is calling on states to allow Americans ages 65 and up to be immediately illegible, but he vowed to stick with the two-dose regimen.

Details: Biden's ability to improve coronavirus vaccinations across the U.S. will largely depend on stronger partnerships with the states, Axios's Caitlin Owens reported.

  • Biden wants to increase supply of the vaccine and spur manufacturing of the materials needed to make it, while providing actionable data on the vaccines to states.

Between the lines: While Biden has praised the Trump administration for "Operation Warp Speed," his entire campaign amounted to a rebuke of Trump's approach to the pandemic.

  • "The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far," he said.
  • He will replace Moncef Slaoui, who led the vaccine effort for Trump, with David Kessler, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, who is was a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force.

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President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

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The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

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Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

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Scoop: Biden admin call on Putin pipeline provokes GOP anger

A briefing between the State Department and congressional staff over Vladimir Putin's Russia-Germany gas pipeline got tense this week, with Biden officials deflecting questions about why they hadn't moved faster and more aggressively with sanctions tostop its completion.

  • The Biden officials also denied negotiating with the Germans over a potential side deal to allow the pipeline to be finished.
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