US announces deal to bring vaccines to conflict zones

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Venezuelan migrants wait to be inoculated against Covid-19 with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Bogota, Colombia in October 2021 (AFP/Raul ARBOLEDA)
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced a deal to bring Covid-19 vaccines into conflict zones, where paltry numbers of people have been inoculated.

In a virtual ministerial meeting on the pandemic, 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," 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 that the United States brokered an agreement to waive indemnification requirements on the Johnson & Johnson 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 spokesperson said in Geneva.

The spokesperson called on other vaccine manufacturers to join Johnson & Johnson 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 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 United States will donate more than one billion doses around the world to help defeat the pandemic with a goal of fully vaccinating at least 70 percent of the global population within a year.

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