Although the official death toll from COVID-19 currently exceeds 5.4 million, it is estimated by individual experts that the actual fatality statistics could be as high as 15.2 million. Unfortunately, many countries of the world have found themselves particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, especially the poorest countries and states affected by armed conflicts. And one of these countries is Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of American troops and the seizure of power in the country by the radical Taliban movement (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation), almost all medical institutions that assisted patients with COVID-19 were closed, and health workers stopped receiving wages.
Therefore, it is not surprising that there is an increased attention in all countries not only to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan but also to the effectiveness of vaccines produced across the world against the coronavirus pandemic.
In this regard, involuntary attention is attracted by the message that appeared the other day that two million doses of the coronavirus vaccine produced by the American company Johnson & Johnson were delivered to Kabul as part of humanitarian aid from the United States. This was announced on December 23 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West previously announced the allocation of $ 474 million by the United States to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and transfer a batch of coronavirus vaccines to the country through the COVAX, a global mechanism for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
In the “informational support” of this “humanitarian gift” organized by Washington, attention is drawn to the grateful reports from the International Children’s Fund UNICEF on Twitter on December 24, clearly made at the direction of the United States: “We thank our donors for helping to keep healthcare workers, teachers and vulnerable groups safe.”
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also took part in this information propaganda campaign of the United States, saying: “The first tranche of 1M COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Afghanistan today, adding to the 3.3M the US previously provided via #COVAX. We are committed to supporting the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, which includes providing safe and effective vaccines to save lives.”
But why are these complimentary reports attracting attention?
First, it should be recalled that as early as April of this year in the United States, several dozen people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson developed alarming side effects. And the authorities decided to close two mass vaccination centers using this drug. In particular, the vaccination center in North Carolina was closed after the revealed cases of side effects in the Johnson & Johnson shot’s recipients: four people were admitted to the hospital. Before that, the center managed to vaccinate more than 2,300 people. Colorado stopped vaccinating people with Johnson & Johnson after more than ten people had experienced side effects: two were hospitalized, as reported by CBS. Regional health agencies and social services decided to close the centers “out of great caution” after consultation with representatives of Johnson & Johnson. This was reported in the Wall Street Journal .
The US authorities approved using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the end of February. The vaccine itself consists of only one component, and it is single-shot. Only people over 18 years of age can be vaccinated with this drug, as indicated in the United States.
In this regard, the grateful UNICEF feedback on receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the USA in Afghanistan on December 23 caused frank surprise. Since this international organization dealing with the protection of children could not but know that the use of this vaccine for children was not recommended by the US itself! So, by such a step, the said international organization again demonstrates to the world its excessive “loyalty” to the United States, which should not be allowed by any country of the UN family as the organization is supposed to be entirely politically neutral and not engaged. And even more so, it should not thank Washington for the vaccine, which cannot be applied to children.
About a hundred complaints received by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prompted its medical staff to take a closer look at this anti-Covid-19 drug. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two weeks after vaccination, some men over 50 years of age developed symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome. That is acute autoimmune polyradiculoneuropathy, a rare disease in which the immune system attacks nerve cells. In the spring in the United States, there was a recommendation to suspend vaccination with Johnson & Johnson due to cases of blood clots in patients who received this vaccine against coronavirus. Some of them later died.
In early July, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended against the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for people who have had Clarkson’s disease, an idiopathic systemic capillary leak syndrome. This happened against the background of detecting three cases of the syndrome on the second day after vaccination. However, two of these cases were subsequently fatal.
The fact that Johnson & Johnson vaccine induces low or no production of antibodies effective against the new omicron strain was recently reported by Bloomberg News Agency, citing direct results from the studies carried out by University of Washington (Seattle) and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Humabs BioMed. Experts under the US regulatory authority Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have advised against using Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine whenever possible, which they noted “can only be used if there is no choice.” In November, scientists at the Institute of Public Health, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center found that the most significant reduction in protection against coronavirus provided by any vaccine concerned the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). Amid the spread of new coronavirus strains, protection against infection has decreased from 86.4% in March to 13.1% in September.
The US firm Johnson & Johnson manufactures the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Its use was approved in the United States in February, and the vaccine received approval from the EMA in March this year. The drug became the third vaccine certified for emergency use in the pandemic. The vaccine contains a recombinant (i.e., it passed the redistribution process of genetic material, leading to the creation of new gene combinations) adenovirus type 26, incapable of replication. The total dose of the drug is administered once. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, like the Russian Sputnik V, is based on human adenoviruses. However, unlike Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Sputnik V’s research shows that even the first dose induces an immune response without negative consequences for human health. But the United States have used unfair political competition and have pushed vaccines of American origin on the international arena; it has artificially inhibited vaccines from China and Russia, particularly Sputnik V, through its influence among the international regulators of the pharmaceutical industry.
Considering the harmful consequences of using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for human health, discovered even in the United States itself, the “donation step” demonstrated by Washington with this particular vaccine being dispatched to Afghanistan raises natural questions. In particular, is it an attempt to rid the United States of an unsuccessful vaccine, or is it a way to “punish” Kabul for the scandalous expulsion of the US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021?
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.