US President Joe Biden told visiting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday that the United States will make a one-time donation of more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union, the White House said.
“We are hopeful this donation will help AU countries build vaccination programs and get shots into arms,” the White House said in a statement.
Kenya holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month. The United States and Kenya have long cooperated on economic and security initiatives including counter-terrorism.
The White House said the donation of the vaccine doses will help the African Union’s own regional procurement of J&J via the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.
The African Union, which has 55 member states and a combined population of over 1.3 billion people, has accused vaccine manufacturers of not giving its members fair access. Of the 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world by mid-September, only 2% had been in Africa.
The 17 million doses are on top of the 50 million the United States has already donated to the African Union. The 17 million doses of J&J are available for delivery immediately and will be delivered to the African Union in the coming weeks, the White House said.
African countries and the World Health Organisation have been urging drugmakers for months to set up vaccine plants on the continent to help it secure supplies of COVID-19 shots that have been hoovered up by wealthier nations.
As of last week, only about 4.5% of Africans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the continent’s top public health official John Nkengasong.