U.S. Has Deal to Send J.&J. Covid Vaccine to Conflict Zones, Blinken Says
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stressed the need to extend vaccine access to people living in areas unreachable by government-run programs.
Blinken says the U.S. has a deal to send Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to conflict zones.
Receiving a shot of a coronavirus vaccine in the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria this summer.Credit…Delil Souleiman/AFP — Getty Images
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States had negotiated a deal to ship additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine overseas, to help people living in conflict zones.
Speaking at a meeting with his overseas counterparts, Mr. Blinken stressed the need to extend vaccine access to people living in areas unreachable by government-run programs. The latest initiative is being carried out via Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program; Mr. Blinken did not specify a number of doses.
“We need to ensure that people who cannot be reached by government vaccination campaigns aren’t left out of our efforts,” Mr. Blinken said. “They need to be protected, too.”
President Biden has pledged more than a billion vaccine doses to send abroad, but he has been under pressure to lean on pharmaceutical manufacturers, who have resisted sharing their technology with vaccine makers in lower-income countries.
Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States has not been as high as that of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Johnson & Johnson doses have also been distributed abroad through the Covax program in an effort to bolster immunity in poorer countries, including many in Africa.
Many of those have been provided through a similar deal reached in May, under which Johnson & Johnson agreed to sell about 200 million doses to Covax at a discounted rate.
Worldwide, about 75 percent of shots that have gone into arms have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.6 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.
“In countries suffering from years of conflict — such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen — less than 2 percent of the population have been vaccinated against Covid-19,” Esperanza Martinez, the head of the Covid crisis management team for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement.
“This shocking inequality must be rectified,” she said. “The donation of these doses is a positive step in that direction.”
Mr. Blinken also announced the launch of a new online tracker that would compile global data on vaccination and ICU rates, drawing on assistance from the World Health Organization.
He described the need to ramp up global vaccine distribution as the “current emergency,” acknowledging the ongoing challenges Covax has faced with delays and poor coordination.
“We’re eager for people in these difficult circumstances to get protection against Covid-19 as soon as possible,” he said. “We know the urgency of this fight.”