U.S. seeks to speed global COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Masked workers seated at table assisting others with paperwork (USAID)
Staff members collect data at a U.S. Agency for International Development vaccination clinic in Indonesia. (USAID)

The United States is rallying partners to accelerate the global COVID-19 vaccination campaign and quickly get vaccines to those who need them most.

At a November 10 COVID-19 Ministerial, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged foreign ministers to redouble efforts to vaccinate people everywhere. More than half of people in Europe and North America are fully vaccinated, he said, while the vaccination rate in Africa is less than 10%.

“We’ve got to close that gap,” Blinken told the virtual meeting of foreign minsters and representatives of international and regional organizations. “To do this, we all need to step up our efforts to boost production, to increase vaccine donations, to fulfill the pledges we’ve made to COVAX,” the partnership dedicated to global and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Blinken announced three new initiatives to speed global vaccination efforts:

  • The U.S. government brokered a deal between U.S. producer Johnson & Johnson and COVAX to speed up delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses to people living in conflict zones and other humanitarian settings.
  • Through the newly created Global COVID Corps, a coalition of private sector companies will work for free in interested countries to help streamline vaccine delivery, supporting vaccine supply chains and vaccination sites.
  • Partners including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization launched COVID19globaltracker.org to better track everything from hospital admissions to vaccine deliveries and help hold countries accountable to meet donation pledges to COVAX.

Blinken said the ministerial “provided an opportunity to identify gaps and solutions that require political leadership and launched what will be a series of regular engagements by foreign ministers.”

The November 10 virtual ministerial builds on momentum from President Biden’s September 22 COVID-19 Summit, which unveiled new international partnerships to ensure vaccines are distributed equitably to nations in need.

At that summit, Biden increased the U.S. pledge to donate vaccines to more than 1.1 billion doses. More than 235 million of those doses have already shipped to more than 100 countries, mostly through COVAX.

The U.S. government, private sector and other partners also support expanded manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa and India.

Yet U.S. Global Coordinator for COVID Response and Health Security Gayle Smith told reporters November 9 that greater international cooperation is needed to stop a crisis that “has dangerously impacted economies and the well-being of people all over the world.”

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power will convene countries’ development leaders in 2021 to further coordinate international vaccination efforts, Blinken said. The State Department will hold another COVID-19 ministerial in 2022.

Countries know the steps needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic, Blinken said, but they must work together to finish the job. “We’ve got to be ambitious because ending this pandemic demands it,” he said. “And we have to be coordinated and united because that’s what a global health emergency like this requires.”