US announces deal to take vaccines to conflict zones

The US is working with Covax to provide single-dose Johnson & Johnson shots to areas of conflict and other humanitarian distress. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday (Nov 10) announced a deal to take Covid-19 vaccines into conflict zones, where paltry numbers of people have been inoculated.

In a virtual ministerial meeting on the pandemic, Mr Blinken said the United States had worked with Covax, the international vaccine alliance to support developing nations, on providing the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shots to areas of conflict and other humanitarian distress.

"We're eager for people in these difficult circumstances to get protection against Covid-19 as soon as possible," Mr Blinken said.

"We know the urgency of this fight. We know what we need to do to stop the pandemic. Now, we've got to do it," he said.

Gavi, the public-private partnership that co-leads Covax, said the US brokered an agreement to waive indemnification requirements on the J&J vaccines.

Manufacturers have required governments to pay any legal penalties for incidents from vaccination, creating hurdles for poor nations and especially for aid groups operating in conflict zones.

"We warmly welcome the US government's role in helping broker the agreement between J&J and Covax," a Gavi spokesman said in Geneva.

The spokesman called on other vaccine manufacturers to join J&J and China's Sinovac in waiving indemnification requirements for humanitarian agencies.

Details on how many doses would be distributed were not immediately announced.

More than four billion vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

But the vast majority of shots have gone to wealthy countries, as well as China and India, with inoculation rates minimal in sub-Saharan Africa.

President Joe Biden in September announced that the US would donate more than one billion doses around the world to help defeat the pandemic, with a goal of fully vaccinating at least 70 per cent of the global population within a year.

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