KIGALI, Rwanda 

Nearly 50 African countries are set to receive 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US to boost efforts to reach the African Union’s target of vaccinating at least 60% of the continent’s population, US officials and the Gavi vaccine alliance said on Friday.

In May, US President Joe Biden pledged to share 80 million US-made vaccines with countries around the world to protect the most vulnerable and contain transmission of the novel coronavirus.

In a statement, the US Department of State and the Gavi vaccine alliance said the first shipments of about a million doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the coming days in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.

“In partnership with the African Union and COVAX, the United States is proud to donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries,” Gayle Smith, the US Department of State coordinator for COVID-19 recovery and global health, said in the statement.

“The Biden Administration is committed to leading the global response to the pandemic by providing safe and effective vaccines to the world. Working together, we can save lives and bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.”

The remainder is planned to be shipped in coming weeks.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 6.1 million as of Friday, with the death toll at 155,502, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Africa recorded a 43% jump in COVID-19 deaths last week as infections and hospital admissions climbed amid shortages of oxygen and intensive-care beds, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

African Union Special Envoy Strive Masiyiwa voiced appreciation for the US support, especially as several countries in the continent are witnessing their third coronavirus waves.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for vaccinating at least 10% of the most vulnerable , such as health workers and the elderly, in every country by September.

All doses will be delivered by COVAX, which has set a target to deliver 620 million doses to Africa by the end of 2021 and a billion doses by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

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