U.S. brokers J&J-COVAX deal to send vaccines to conflict zones -Blinken

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the United States has brokered a deal between Johnson & Johnson and vaccine-sharing program COVAX for the delivery of the company’s COVID-19 vaccines to people living in conflict zones.

He announced the agreement at the opening of a meeting of global foreign ministers convened by Washington on the COVID-19 pandemic, but provided no details such as how many doses would be delivered, when or to which countries.

“We need to ensure that people who cannot be reached by government vaccination campaigns aren’t left out of our efforts. They need to be protected too,” Blinken said. “We’re eager for people in these difficult circumstances to get protection against COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

The meeting follows a virtual summit of world leaders arranged by President Joe Biden on Sept. 22, when he pledged that Washington would buy 500 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries.

Health experts say rich countries have not done enough in that regard and have criticized the United States in particular for planning booster shots for fully vaccinated Americans while much of the world’s population still has no access to vaccines.

They say the planned U.S. dose donations are welcome but insufficient and note the Pfizer vaccine is difficult to scale up and to administer in poorer countries, which lack sophisticated infrastructure for storing and shipping shots.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis, Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Heinrich)

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