A strong advocate for protecting some of the world’s poorest countries from Covid-19 has been chosen to lead the Biden administration’s vaccine diplomacy in an effort to get richer countries to distribute vaccines more evenly across the country. world.
Gayle Smith, former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and executive director of the ONE campaign to eradicate poverty and preventable disease, will step into this role, a new position at the State Department.
With around 62 million people in the United States already fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pleaded Monday to ensure that more people are protected abroad.
We have a duty to other countries to control the virus here in the United States, Blinken told the State Department. But soon the United States will have to step up its work and rise to the occasion around the world. Because again, it is only by stopping Covid in the world that Americans will be saved in the long term.
Mr Blinken said other countries have asked the United States with growing desperation to share their vaccine supply. We hear you, and I promise we will go as fast as possible, he said.
Ms Smith will largely focus on coordinating the international response, even as the virus mutates and threatens to prolong the pandemic. So far, the United States has contributed or pledged $ 4 billion to Covax, the global immunization campaign, largely aimed at low- and middle-income countries, and Congress last month approved $ 11 billion. dollars in efforts abroad to fight the pandemic in addition to billions of dollars sent to foreign countries and non-governmental organizations in the epidemic’s first year.
More than 665 million doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Yet China, India and Russia have already overtaken the United States in providing vaccines globally, as an instrument of diplomacy. Last month, the ONE campaign urged Mr. Biden to share 5% of his doses overseas when 20% of Americans have been vaccinated, and to increase doses globally as more people with United States receive theirs. According to the group, the US government has purchased 453 million excess doses of the vaccine.
Ms Smith, who will receive her second vaccine on Tuesday, helped lead the Obama administrations’ response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak that swept across borders in West Africa and the United States, while the Organization global health has been delayed by downsizing. and other resource shortages. Officials said the UN agency has since encouraged closer collaboration between scientists and health experts to better track diseases.
The Trump administration withdrew from the WHO last year after refusing to blame China for not stopping Covid-19 from where it originated, but the United States has once again pledged to work with the agency under President Biden.
If the virus evolves faster than us, it’s a winner, Ms Smith said after Mr Blinken announced his appointment on Monday. But with a unity of purpose, science, vigilance and leadership, we can get ahead of any virus.
Mr Blinken said there will be enough vaccines for all adults in the United States by the end of May, after more than 550,000 Americans have been claimed to have died from the virus since February 2020. More than 2.8 million people around the world have been killed by the pandemic. .
Other world leaders have started asking rich nations to share their vaccines with poorer countries; Pope Francis on Sunday called vaccines an essential tool to stop the pandemic.
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