U.S. leadership bolsters global fight against COVID-19

Gayle Smith standing at lectern with Antony Blinken standing behind (© Al Drago/AP Images)
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on April 5 named Gayle Smith the State Department’s coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security to lead U.S. support for vaccinations worldwide. (© Al Drago/AP Images)

An “unprecedented global operation.” That’s how the United States is working through multilateral mechanisms and with stakeholders to make COVID-19 vaccines available at home and abroad.

“This pandemic won’t end at home until it ends worldwide,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in an April 5 address to the nation at the State Department. “We’ll work with global partners on manufacturing and supplies to ensure there will be enough vaccine for everyone, everywhere.”

Blinken named Gayle Smith the State Department’s coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security. Smith will lead efforts to ensure global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“We won’t trade shots in arms for political favors. This is about saving lives.”
— Antony J. Blinken

Smith, a former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, helped lead the U.S. response to the 2014 Ebola crisis in Africa. She also has worked on the global fights against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Smith will oversee the complex diplomacy of convening governments, businesses and organizations to finance, manufacture and distribute vaccines and also aid global efforts to prepare for and prevent future pandemics.

U.S. support for global vaccination efforts will follow America’s core values, Blinken said, adding that the United States will treat partners with respect. “We won’t trade shots in arms for political favors,” he said. “This is about saving lives.”

U.S. support for global vaccine distribution includes:

  • Rejoining the World Health Organization.
  • Contributing $2 billion in support of distribution by the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Pledging an additional $2 billion in future support for COVAX AMC vaccine distribution as other countries fulfill their own pledges.
  • Collaborating with Australia, India and Japan (through the Quad) to finance, manufacture and distribute at least 1 billion doses of vaccine for the Indo-Pacific region by the end of 2022.

The U.S. Congress recently approved $11 billion to support the global response to COVID-19. The funding will improve access to safe, effective and lifesaving vaccines and help countries to fight hunger and other secondary impacts of the pandemic, Blinken said.

The United States and international partners will also strengthen global health security to quickly respond to future disease threats.

“The world has to come together to bring the COVID pandemic to an end everywhere,” Blinken said. “And for that to happen, the United States must act and we must lead.”