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Biden administration sets up mass Covid vaccination site for Afghan evacuees

The site at the Dulles Expo Center will offer the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a White House official.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has set up a mass Covid vaccination site for the thousands of Afghan evacuees arriving at Dulles International Airport, a White House official said Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in charge of the site at the nearby Dulles Expo Center in northern Virginia, where many evacuees are being temporarily housed before being transported to military bases, the official said.

Evacuees are tested once they arrive at the airport, and those who test negative are transported to the Expo Center, where they are offered the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services is administering the shots, while the State Department is providing translators.

The Associated Press was first to report the vaccination site.

"This operation has been stood up in real time to ensure we are not wasting one minute and making sure everyone arriving in the United States is able to enter the country safely and not spread Covid-19," the official said.

Afghan refugees walk to a bus taking them to a processing center upon arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., on Aug. 27, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The official added that the administration is hoping to set up a similar mass vaccination site in Philadelphia, as evacuees were expected to begin arriving at the airport there as soon as Friday.

Some aid agencies had warned that the overcrowded conditions inside and around the Kabul airport as people scrambled to secure a flight out of the country before the U.S. military withdrawal deadline on Aug. 31 could lead to a spread in Covid cases.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday was unable to say what percentage of evacuees arriving in the U.S. had tested positive for Covid.

A spokesperson for UNICEF, the United Nations agency, told Reuters that the vaccination rate in Afghanistan dropped 80 percent in the first week that the Taliban took over the country.

Data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford shows that roughly 1.8 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered in Afghanistan, which has a population of 40 million.