By Kate Sullivan and Betsy Klein, CNN
(CNN) – The United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to the African Union, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.
Biden made the announcement during his meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya on Thursday afternoon at the White House. The 17 million doses will be delivered to the African Union in the coming weeks, a senior administration official said. This donation is in addition to the 50 million doses the United States has already sent to the African Union. Kenyatta is the first African leader Biden welcomed to the White House during his presidency.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is highly regarded in Africa because of its single dose vaccination style and flexibility in storage and transport. The official noted that the J&J vaccine is in high demand and in short supply in Africa.
The move is part of the president’s efforts to reaffirm U.S. leadership on the world stage and help countries around the world struggling with Covid-19 epidemics fight the pandemic. It will also serve to counter efforts by Russia and China to use their own publicly funded vaccines to expand their global influence.
Biden announced last month that the United States was purchasing an additional 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to donate to low- and lower-middle-income countries around the world, bringing the total number of vaccines the United States has pledged to donate to over a billion. These vaccines will be distributed through Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, the global immunization program known as COVAX.
Vaccinate the world
The president also called on other world leaders to increase their vaccine donations to countries most in need to help end the pandemic. He also called on governments and international institutions to help solve the global oxygen crisis and make testing and treatment more readily available.
The donations come as many fully vaccinated Americans receive Covid-19 booster shots. Last month, the United States Food and Drug Administration said it would grant emergency use authorization for a booster dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in people 65 years of age and older, people at high risk of serious illness and those whose work puts them at risk of infection.
The executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergency program, Mike Ryan, criticized the United States for distributing booster vaccines, arguing that vaccines should be prioritized over those in other parts of the world who have not yet received Covid-19 vaccines.
White House officials pushed back the criticism and said they could provide booster shots while continuing their efforts to help immunize the world. Officials like Jeff Zients, White House Director of Covid-19 Response, and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have stressed the importance of doing both at the same time in order to end the global pandemic.
In addition to vaccines, Biden said $ 2 billion in US contributions would go to a global coronavirus vaccine initiative and provide support for COVAX. He also pledged additional funding of $ 2 billion depending on contributions from other countries and the achievement of dose delivery targets.
A new era of diplomacy with Africa
Kenya was specifically chosen for Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with an African leader, a senior administration official said, because of its position as a key strategic partner in the region on US import issues. United.
“Kenya is a strong bilateral partner and a leader on regional and global issues,” the official said, adding that the United States would work closely with the country to advance peace and security, defend democracy, strengthen financial transparency, economic growth and climate change.
The meeting “truly demonstrates a new era of American partnership with Africa that is based on principles of mutual respect and fairness,” the official added, unlike Biden’s predecessor, who described some African nations as “shitty countries”.
Kenya is also crucial for major security concerns in what the second official described as the “very fragile region of the Horn of Africa”, adding that Kenya “can play an important role in the fight against al Shabaab. in Somalia, as well as in the de-escalation of the conflict in Ethiopia. “Last month, Biden signed an executive order authorizing broad sanctions against those implicated in the perpetration of the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia as reports of atrocities continue to emerge in the Tigray region.
The second official was also questioned about the Pandora Papers briefing by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which said Kenyatta’s family has been accumulating a fortune in offshore tax havens for decades. The Pandora Papers show the family owned at least seven entities based in the British Virgin Islands and Panama, two well-known tax havens, the ICIJ said, with assets worth more than $ 30 million.
Leaders, the second official said, “will discuss strengthening financial transparency.”
Pressed again, the second official added, “President Biden definitely engages with a range of leaders and pushes his foreign policy priorities forward, foremost of which is the fight against corruption. And so, at the meeting of ‘Today, we can expect the President will once again reinforce the need to bring transparency and accountability to national and international financial systems, “later calling the meeting” an opportunity to convey our concerns and encourage additional support and action on behalf of Kenyans to ensure financial transparency. “
Biden will also host a democracy summit later this year, the second official noted, and Kenya is expected to attend, along with other African countries.
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