WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – 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 (JNJ.N) vaccine to the African Union, the White House said.
The meeting with Kenyatta at the White House marked Biden’s first as president with an African leader. Kenya holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month. The United States and Kenya have long cooperated on economic and security initiatives including counterterrorism.
Biden said the 17 million doses will be in addition to 50 million the United States has already donated to the African Union. 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 White House said.
Kenyatta said the United States “has done its best to step up in terms of not only helping Kenya, but the African continent.”
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 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world by mid-September, only 2% had been in Africa.
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 Organization 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.
Biden also said the two countries will discuss what the U.S. can do to help with security issues in the Horn of Africa and ways to fight climate change.
Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell