COVID vaccination site opens at Dulles for arriving Afghans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government has opened a mass COVID-19 vaccination site for arriving Afghans near Dulles International Airport, where some of the thousands fleeing the Taliban are now arriving daily.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday confirmed that the site — which was set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — has begun administering vaccinations to the Afghan evacuees. A second mass vaccination site is expected open in the coming days for evacuees who will be arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The White House announced earlier this week that it was working to provide vaccinations to medically eligible evacuees upon arrival in the U.S.

Biden administration officials were intent on making sure that evacuees are vaccinated as soon as possible after arriving in the country and decided that the most efficient way to do so was to set up a vaccination site at Dulles Expo Center, where many of the arriving evacuees are receiving medical screenings and being temporarily housed before being transferred to military bases in New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas.

The shots — the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — are being administered by the National Disaster Medical System team, and State Department translators are on hand at the site to answer questions about the shots.

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

Evacuees are also tested for the virus upon arrival and quarantined if they test positive. Data was not available on how many of the evacuees, many who were tested prior to leaving Kabul, have tested positive for the virus since arriving in the U.S.

The U.S. government also on Thursday opened a mobile vaccination unit at Dulles airport to provide COVID-19 shots to evacuating American citizens and green card holders who fled Afghanistan.

A tiny percentage of Afghanistan’s 40 million people have been vaccinated for the virus. As of Aug. 20, about 1.2 million doses had been administered in Afghanistan, according to the World Health Organization.

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