Biden commits 17M J&J vaccine doses to African Union

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The White House announced Thursday afternoon that the U.S. will commit millions of additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union in the coming weeks. 

The U.S. government plans to share an additional 17 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s shot with the African Union. The White House said in a press release that this contribution comes on top of the 50 million doses of vaccine that the U.S. has already sent to the African Union. 

The news comes amid a scheduled Oval Office meeting between President Biden and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

“I am proud to announce today that we’re making an additional historic one time donation of 17 more million doses of J&J vaccine to the AU and we’re going to be sending some more by the end of the year, to Kenya,” Biden said at the start of the meeting with Kenyatta.

He noted that of the 50 million vaccine doses the U.S. has sent to the African Union, 2.8 million have gone to Kenya.

Kenyatta in his own remarks said the assistance was “greatly welcomed.”

The Biden administration said that the donation represents half of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine purchased by the U.S. for its domestic vaccination program.

The single-dose vaccine is considered an asset particularly because it requires only one shot and can be more easily stored. The rollout of the vaccine in the U.S. was hampered, however, due to reports of rare cases of blood clots in individuals who received it in April and failures at a Baltimore plant producing the vaccine.

The White House said in a statement that the doses will “help close the vaccine equity gap.”

The 17 million doses will be delivered in the coming weeks to the African Union, which will decide how many doses go to each country.

The Biden administration has already sent tens of millions of doses to countries worldwide, the majority of them shared through Covax, and has committed to donating 1 billion doses to other countries over the next year. The White House has been under consistent pressure from health experts to do more to contribute to global vaccinations in order to end the pandemic.

Biden’s meeting with Kenyatta is his first with an African leader. Vice President Harris recently met with the leaders of Zambia and Ghana separately.

“This meeting demonstrates really a new era of U.S. partnership with Africa that is based on principles of mutual respect and equity,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing the meeting.

The two are expected to talk about regional security, including the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and efforts to counter al Shabaab in Somalia, as well as issues like human rights and climate change.

The official also said that Biden would talk about the need to strengthen transparency of the global financial system when asked about recent revelations from the Pandora Papers showing that Kenyatta’s family secretly owned more than a dozen offshore companies. 

Updated at 4:39 p.m.

Tags coronavirus vaccine Covax COVID-19 Joe Biden Pandemic Uhuru Kenyatta
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