WASHINGTON DC — President Joe Biden informed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday that the United States would make a one-time donation to the African Union of more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the White House announced.
The meeting with Kenyatta at the White House was Biden’s first meeting as president with an African leader. Kenya holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month.
The United States and Kenya have a long history of working together on economic and security initiatives, including counterterrorism.
Biden said the 17 million doses would be in addition to the 50 million the United States has already donated to the African Union.
The donation of the vaccine doses will support regional procurement of J&J by the African Union through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the White House said.
Kenyatta said the United States “has done its best to help not only Kenya but also the African continent.”
The African Union, which has 55 member states and a combined population of more than 1.3 billion people, has accused vaccine makers of failing to give their members equitable access. Of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered worldwide as of mid-September, only 2% had been in Africa.
The 17 million doses of J&J are ready for immediate delivery and will be shipped to the African Union in the coming weeks, the White House said.
For months, African countries and the World Health Organization have been urging drugmakers to set up vaccine factories on the continent to ensure supplies of Covid-19 vaccines that have been hijacked by wealthier countries.
As of last week, only around 4.5% of Africans were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the continent’s top health official, John Nkengasong.
Biden also said the two countries will discuss what the United States can do to help address security issues in the Horn of Africa and how to tackle climate change.