Biden announces US vaccine doses for Lesotho

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US President Biden was yesterday expected to announce a fresh tranche of vaccine doses for seven African countries. White House officials told The Africa Report that the donations come with ‘no strings attached’, and are keen to downplay any vaccine diplomacy rivalry with Beijing.

The US is making the donation through the COVAX facility, co-run by the World Health Organisation, CEPI and GAVI. It will consist of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) single shot vaccine. The countries included are: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Niger, Senegal, and Zambia

The third wave of the pandemic brought a new variant of the virus, the Beta variant, to Lesotho. Identified in surrounding country South Africa in August 2020, this strain spreads more rapidly than the previous ones and is thought to have a higher risk of re-infection.

Lesotho currently has 12,630 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 349 deaths. The Johnson & Johnson, and Oxford’s AstraZeneca, are both available in the country.

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Top Biden officials are ramping up their diplomatic and humanitarian engagement with the continent, after years of drift under the Trump administration.

“Having spent the bulk of my career in public service working on the African continent – Senegal being the first country in Africa where I first set foot – and on issues related to Africa, I know the difference that the US assistance can make to our African partners and in the lives of people across the continent”, says National Security Council Senior Director for Africa, Dana Banks.

“This Administration’s vaccine sharing initiative is a further demonstration of that commitment”, adds Banks.

This stock of vaccines doses are being delivered to the following countries:

  • Cameroon 303,050 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Lesotho 302,400 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Central African Republic 302,400 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Gambia 151,200 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Senegal 151,200 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Niger 151,200 doses of J&J vaccine
  • Zambia 151,200 doses of J&J vaccine

The US announcement comes as China ramps up its own vaccine dispatches to the continent. China sent an additional 4 million additional doses to African countries last week, according to Bridge Beijing’s weekly vaccine tracking report, reports The China Africa Project.

But the Biden administration are at pains to point out that this is not part of a geopolitical tug of war.

An official in the White House told The Africa Report that the 25 million vaccines the US is contributing to the COVAX stock destined for Africa – which nearly matches the 27.9 million vaccine doses Beijing has promised the continent – was not to secure favours or extract concessions.

“Our vaccines do not come with strings attached”, says the official. “We are doing this with the singular objective of saving lives. As the President has said: the United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus.” Covid-19 continues to multiply on the continent. The US also announced its support

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