USA – President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to the African Union.
Biden made the announcement during a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House. Kenyatta is the first African leader to visit the White House during Biden’s presidency.
The 17 million J&J vaccines will be available for delivery immediately and will be delivered to the African Union within the coming weeks.
This donation is in addition to the 50 million doses already sent to the African Union by the United States.
“We’re continuing our shared fight against COVID,” Biden said during the meeting.
Kenyatta thanked Biden for his assistance to Kenya and other African countries, saying that the United States has “stepped up” in terms of vaccine donation and access to vaccines for other countries.
The White House stated that it chose the one-dose vaccine because of its distinct advantages. “The J&J vaccine is in high demand and short supply in Africa and around the world,” according to the White House.
“The vaccine’s single-dose administration, long shelf life, and simple cold chain make it an asset to global vaccine programs.”
Following the World Health Organization’s announcement on Thursday that six out of seven COVID-19 infections are not being detected on the African continent, any new vaccines are likely to be welcomed.
The WHO estimates that there are 59 million cases in Africa, far more than the 8 million reported cases.
However, health advocates argue that more needs to be done. “Speed matters as we fight this pandemic, and Africa urgently needs more doses to stem the overwhelming impacts of COVID-19.”
“This donation is another example of U.S. leadership on the global response and is a step in the right direction in closing the vaccine access gap,” said Sarah Swinehart, senior communications director for North America at the ONE Campaign, a group that advocates to address extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
African countries and the World Health Organization have been urging Pharmaceutical companies for months to establish vaccine plants on the continent in order to help the continent secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines that have been amassed by wealthier nations.
According to the continent’s top public health official, John Nkengasong, only about 4.5 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far.
“As we continue to work towards the goal of getting 70% of the world vaccinated, all wealthy countries must be bolder and more ambitious. This will require more doses and more money to get those doses into arms.”
The White House has responded to criticism over its push for booster shots for already vaccinated Americans, despite the fact that many people around the world have yet to receive a single dose.
“With this donation, the U.S. will be giving away over half of the J&J vaccines purchased by the U.S. for its domestic program,” said a White House Correspondent.