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Washington — The Biden administration is sending 3.5 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses to Argentina on Friday, a White House official told CBS News. The shipment, which will arrive Saturday, is the largest shipment of COVID-19 vaccines so far by the U.S. to a Latin American country, and the first mRNA vaccine to be sent.

“America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19. We are proud to be able to deliver these safe and effective vaccines to the people of Argentina,” the White House official said, quoting President Biden. 

The South American country has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Argentina  surpassed more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the global pandemic and nearly 5 million overall cases, according to statistics released by the Argentine Health Ministry. Argentina, with a population of 45 million, is the fifth country in Latin America to have reached that number.

A Covid-19 testing site in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, July 15, 2021. 

Erica Canepa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scientific teams and regulatory authorities from both the U.S. and Argentina have worked together to ensure the “prompt delivery of safe and effective vaccine lots to Argentina,” according to the official.

The administration has been ramping up its distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Latin America and around the world, including a recent shipment to its neighbor in the Western hemisphere, Haiti. On Wednesday night, the White House said 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived at the Caribbean island nation, which is still struggling in the aftermath of the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse, earlier this month.

The Biden administration has committed to sending 80 million U.S. doses overseas, in addition to 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for countries that need it. Doses will generally be distributed through  COVAX — the global entity that is working to ensure equitable access to COVID testing and vaccines — and will be given to 92 low- and middle-income countries and the African Union.

The administration also announced Friday that the U.S. will be sending 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa over the next few weeks, the first vaccine shipment to African nations by the U.S., according to two White House officials. Africa has been hammered by the deadly virus with over 1 million new COVID cases over the last month, the World Health Organization noted. It also said that African hospitals have reached a “breaking point.”

The initial shipment will consist of Johnson & Johnson doses, a single-shot vaccine, that will be shipped to Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Djibouti, an administration official confirmed. And the U.S. will coordinate the delivery to the African countries with the African Union and COVAX. Forty-nine African nations will receive vaccine doses over next few weeks.