Some Afghan evacuees arriving in the United States are being given COVID-19 vaccines, according to US officials.
The vaccinations were delivered at Dulles International Airport on Friday, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. According to The Washington Post, 14,000 Afghan adults and children have arrived as of Friday morning.
According to Psaki, the Federal Emergency Management Agency established a vaccination facility at the Dulles Expo Center. Afghan citizens are being held temporarily at the site until they can relocate to other temporary housing facilities across the United States.
Everyone arriving at Dulles is required to be tested or U.S. citizens can provide proof of a negative test result. Northam said 20 evacuees who have tested positive have been isolated from others.
“If people are saying this mission is bringing in COVID to the United States, it’s just simply not true,” he said.
Air Force Gen. Glen Vanherck said the evacuees are being tested multiple times.
“We are seeing, so far to date, when I was at Fort McCoy on Wednesday, only three out of more than 1,300 had tested positive,” he said during a news conference. “When I went to Fort Bliss the same day, one out of more than 1,200 had tested positive for COVID.”
A Virginia health official said the number of Afghan refugees who agreed to take the vaccination “has been small.”
“These people are just coming out of a war zone, they’re landing in a new country,” Northam said. “I don’t think this is something that you just automatically want to say: ‘You need to get a shot.’ We’re trying to at least handle some of these individuals with respect and, I’d call it, kid gloves rather than saying: ‘Do this and do that.'”
About 1.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in Afghanistan, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker, a relatively small figure for its 38 million population.
By comparison, the United States has administered 365.76 million doses for its 328 million population.
Afghanistan has reported 152,000 cases and 7,101 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.