Blinken says we will continue to work towards COVID-19 global recovery

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: Four months ago, our countries created the Global Action Plan to try to accelerate our efforts to vaccinate 70 percent of our people against COVID-19, the goal set by the World Health Organization (WHO). I think we all knew that hitting that target would take countries stepping up together in a highly coordinated way. So we identified key gaps that remained, we established together six lines of effort to bridge those gaps, and then everyone in this room in effect took responsibility for leading this effort and doing it together.

And we have made significant progress on each of these lines of effort. A lot more work remains to be done, but this is moving forward precisely because nations have come together in a coordinated way.

The first line of effort is trying to get more shots into arms. We know that there are a lot of vaccines out there. The challenge has been actually getting the shots into arms. We’ve ramped up vaccine delivery. We’ve improved cold chain capacity to store and ship more doses to more places. We’ve conducted in-country campaigns to increase demand for vaccines.

For example, just to cite a few: Colombia has stepped up its efforts to vaccinate Venezuelan refugees; India has enhanced its vaccine production; Japan has significantly expanded cold chain storage worldwide; Australia and New Zealand are doing great work vaccinating citizens in the Pacific Island nations, just to cite some of the striking examples.

To that end, one of the things I’m excited to be able to share is that the United States, in partnership with COVAX, will begin donating pediatric Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-12 year-olds. In fact, the first shipment is going out today: 300,000 doses are being donated to Mongolia; 2.2 million doses are being donated to Nepal. We’ve got many more ready to go for countries that want them.

The second line of effort that we’ve all been working on together is strengthening supply chains for COVID-related materials – tests, syringes, treatments. We are building resilience into the supply chains when shortages and disruptions emerge. For example, the European Union has been consulting with businesses across Africa on medical supplies. The United States has started similar engagements in our own hemisphere as well as globally.

The third line of effort: addressing information gaps that lead to low confidence in vaccines. With help from Canada, we’re coordinating across governments to combat misinformation and disinformation, as well as through programs like the United States Global VAX effort, which uses evidence-based interventions to increase vaccine demand.

The fourth line of effort that we’ve been working on together is providing more support to frontline health care workers. With leadership from Spain, India, and the Republic of Korea, we’re ensuring that those workers have access to vaccines as well as accurate information about vaccines so that they can stay healthy and keep doing the heroic work that they’re doing every day.

The fifth line of effort is to begin a critical conversation on how to increase access to treatments and therapeutics so that people who get COVID can survive it and bounce back faster. There’s a lot more work we’ll need to do on this line of effort to ensure that we have enough interventions available worldwide, from testing to treating, as we move to the next phase of the pandemic.

And finally, the sixth line of effort is building a stronger, more effective global health architecture so that we can better detect, prevent, and respond to future emergencies. We started by building on the work of the structures that we created to address this pandemic – COVAX, and also the ACT-Accelerator. And I particularly want to thank Norway and South Africa for coordinating the ACT-Accelerator’s work to develop and equitably distribute tests, treatments, vaccines; Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan for galvanizing donors; Indonesia for creating a financial intermediary fund for pandemic preparedness.

I know that if we’re just as vulnerable at the end of this pandemic as we were when COVID-19 began, that’s dangerous and it’s a major disservice to our citizens. We have to seize this opportunity to become better prepared than we were before.

Looking ahead, the six lines of effort that we’re all working on remain critical. In many ways this is a marathon. We still have a long way to go if we’re going to end the acute phase of the pandemic and build a lasting foundation for our future.

To do that, perhaps more than anything else, we have to maintain our commitment. We can’t let the pandemic and pandemic fatigue deplete our political will. And I just want to assure you all that the United States continues to be intently focused on fighting the pandemic and leaving the world better prepared and better defended for whatever comes next.

This experience, this pandemic, has taught us that health security is national security – and that in this 21st century, health emergencies often can’t be solved by countries working on their own. Viruses don’t respect borders. We are, quite literally, all in this together. The progress we’ve made to date has been possible because of the leadership, engagement, and willingness to coordinate and collaborate among the countries in this partnership. Now we just need to keep doing it.