- Afghan evacuees arriving to Dulles Airport will receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
- The Biden administration set up a vaccination site for thousands of Afghans who fled their country.
- Afghans are also being screened for the virus before and after they arrive in the US.
As thousands of Afghan refugees begin arriving in the US, the Biden administration is taking steps to try and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among a surge of mostly unvaccinated evacuees.
White House officials confirmed to the Associated Press on Friday that a mass COVID-19 vaccination site has been set up near Dulles International Airport in Virginia, where the majority of fleeing Afghans have started to arrive in the US.
The site was organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has already begun administering vaccinations to the evacuees, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed.
Up until Friday, the only transfer point for arriving evacuees in the US has been Dulles International Airport, the Pentagon said during a Friday morning press conference, but civilian flights carrying refugees were expected to begin landing in Philadelphia later on Friday.
The administration is set to open a second mass site at the Philadelphia International Airport, as more Afghan refugees start to touch down in the City of Brotherly Love in the coming days.
The Virginia site is operating next door to the airport at Dulles Expo Center, where several of the evacuees are receiving temporary housing and medical screening before they are transferred to military bases in Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Jersey.
Evacuees at the site are being administered the single dose Johnson & Johnson shot by the National Disaster Medical System team, the AP reported, and translators from the State Department are present to answer any questions refugees may have about the shots.
According to the outlet, White House officials have said the refugees are required to receive a vaccination when they enter the US, but Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command said on Friday the vaccines were not mandatory for entering evacuees.
“They are not mandatory,” he said during the press conference. “We see many of them are taking the vaccine if they have not already had it.”
The administration is also testing arriving Afghans for the virus, but data has not been released regarding the number of positive cases among evacuees.
American citizens and green card holders who fled Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover also have the opportunity to be vaccinated upon arrival in the US, thanks to a mobile vaccination unit stationed at the Dulles airport that is providing shots.
According to the World Health Organization, only about 1.2 million vaccine dozes have been administered in Afghanistan so far, meaning few of Afghanistan’s 40 million people have been inoculated.