By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - Nearly 50 African countries are to receive 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the United States, with the first shipments to Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Ethiopia in coming days, U.S. officials and the Gavi vaccine alliance said on Friday.
U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to share 80 million U.S.-made vaccines with countries around the world to protect the most vulnerable and stem transmission of the coronavirus.
"In partnership with the African Union and COVAX, the United States is proud to donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries. The Biden Administration is committed to leading the global response to the pandemic by providing safe and effective vaccines to the world,” Gayle Smith, the U.S. State Department's coordinator for COVID-19 recovery and global health, said in the statement.
Nearly a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be delivered to Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Ethiopia in coming days, the statement said.
The remainder will be shipped in coming weeks, it added.
Africa recorded a 43% jump in COVID-19 deaths last week as infections and hospital admissions have risen and countries face shortages of oxygen and intensive-care beds, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
African Union Special Envoy Strive Masiyiwa said the U.S. donation to 49 countries was appreciated "especially at this moment when we are witnessing the third-wave in a number of African countries”.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is Ethiopian, has called for vaccinating at least 10% of the most vulnerable in every country - including health workers and the elderly - by September.
The COVAX dose-sharing programme has so far shipped 121 million doses to 136 mostly low and middle income countries, far short of its original targets, due to supply constraints since India suspended vaccine exports. It is run by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the WHO.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Frances Kerry)