Health worker vaccinating child held by woman (© Joseph Oduor/AP Images)
U.S.-funded health organizations are expanding access to vaccines in African nations, including Kenya, where a child is vaccinated against malaria September 13, 2019. (© Joseph Oduor/AP Images)

Research shows there is a nearly 40% chance of a pandemic as severe as COVID-19 happening again in our lifetime.

“We have to be ready,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said August 1. “The world at large has to be ready.”

The secretary launched a new Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State to elevate global health to the forefront of national security and foreign policy.

Through increased cooperation, the bureau will work to address everything from climate impacts on health to preventing and responding to future pandemics.

The new bureau will:

  • Work with partners to strengthen global health to prevent, detect, control and respond to infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is now housed in the bureau.
  • Coordinate U.S. foreign assistance and improve international cooperation through such multilateral organizations as the World Health Organization.
  • Put global health security at the forefront of U.S. national security and foreign policy.
Antony Blinken applauding John Nkengasong in front of group of people (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Ambassador John Nkengasong, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, will lead the State Department’s Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy, which was launched August 1 in Washington. Nkengasong, seen alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is assuming the role of senior bureau official. (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Blinken said the new bureau builds on the U.S. government’s long-standing commitment to global health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States donated more than 688 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 117 countries and economies in partnership with COVAX, an international partnership dedicated to equitable global access to vaccines, and other organizations.

In September 2022, President Biden convened U.S. government, partner nations and private sector donors that pledged a record $15.7 billion to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The United States also supports efforts to deliver new vaccines to combat tuberculosis and malaria.

After a 2018 Ebola outbreak in Africa, the United States worked with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to improve disease detection and response, including through a new vaccine. The improved response saved lives during a subsequent Ebola outbreak in the DRC in 2022.

John Nkengasong, ambassador-at-large, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, and senior bureau official for global health security and diplomacy, will oversee the new bureau and bring lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and PEPFAR, which has saved 25 million lives since its launch in 2003.

PEPFAR also has helped 5.5 million babies be born HIV-free. To build on that success, Nkengasong announced the new Safe Births, Healthy Babies initiative. Through the two-year, $40 million initiative, PEPFAR will work toward ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV in PEPFAR-partner countries.

Nkengasong credited PEPFAR’s success to a “whole-of-government approach” and said the new health bureau will promote cooperation between partners within the U.S. government and around the world. “We need you, our international partners, more than ever, to fulfill the promise of the new Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy,” he said.