US opens vaccination center for evacuees from Afghanistan

The United States government has opened a mass vaccination center against COVID-19 for Afghans arriving at Dulles International Airport, where some of the thousands of people fleeing the Taliban currently arrive every day.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday that the center – established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA – has begun administering vaccines to Afghan evacuees.

A second mass vaccination site is expected to open in the next few days for evacuees arriving at Philadelphia International Airport, according to a senior government official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House announced this week that it was working to provide vaccinations to evacuees upon arrival in the United States.

Government officials intended to ensure that evacuees were vaccinated as soon as possible after arriving in the country and decided that the most efficient way to do this was to establish a vaccination center at the Dulles Expo Center, where many of the evacuees are temporarily housed before being transferred to military bases in New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas.

The injections – from Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine – are being administered by the National Disaster Medical System team, and State Department translators are on site to answer questions about the injections.

The Pentagon said the only transit point as of Friday has been Dulles. Civilian flights with refugees are expected to begin arriving in Philadelphia on Friday as well. White House officials noted that refugees are required to be vaccinated as a condition for their entry.

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Evacuees are also tested for the virus upon arrival and are quarantined if they test positive. No data is available on how many of the evacuees, many of whom were tested before leaving Kabul, have tested positive since they arrived in the United States.

A small percentage of the 40 million Afghans have been vaccinated against the virus. As of August 20, about 1.2 million doses had been administered in Afghanistan, according to the World Health Organization.

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