Blinken says US will lead world in beating pandemic

Blinken says US will lead world in beating pandemic
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Republican lawmakers warn against more military coordination with Russia Uyghur Tribunal is a litmus test of the human rights establishment MORE on Monday announced the appointment of a U.S. coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security while committing the Biden administration to leading the worldwide effort to beat back the pandemic.

Gayle Smith, who served as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Obama administration, will take on the role of coordinator for global COVID-19 response and health security at the State Department.

Smith most recently served as the president and CEO of the ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan organization that works towards ending poverty and preventable disease by 2030, particularly in Africa. She has also served on the National Security Councils of former presidents Obama and Clinton.

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“She's crisis-tested. She's highly respected. She will hit the ground running,” Blinken said in remarks from the State Department. “And I can say from having worked with Gayle and admired her for years, that no one will work harder, faster or more effectively to get us to the finish line.”

Smith, who helped lead the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, said the goal of the administration is to “shorten the lifespan” of the pandemic across the world and “ensure that we can prevent, detect and respond to those future global health threats that we know are coming.”  

“American leadership is desperately needed and I'm extremely confident we can rise to the occasion,” Smith said. 

Blinken’s announcement also came as part of remarks outlining the Biden administration’s priorities: to lead the global effort to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic, increase access to vaccinations in low- and middle-income countries and work to prevent another outbreak. 

The U.S. has provided $2 billion to COVAX, the global vaccination distribution fund through the World Health Organization and GAVI, the vaccine alliance, with $2 billion more to be delivered as other countries fulfill their own pledges. 

But Blinken added the Biden administration is “exploring options” to share vaccines with more countries across the globe.

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“We believe that we'll be in a position to do much more on this front,” he said, but did not give a timeline. 

President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE has set a goal of delivering 200 million vaccine shots to U.S. citizens by day 100 of his administration, after surpassing the goal of 100 million shots on day 58 of his administration.

Blinken said this sped-up timeline is critical in allowing the U.S. to step into a leading position on the global stage to bring an end to the pandemic worldwide, increase access to vaccines globally and work with “partners” to reform multilateral institutions to stem the next outbreak. 

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

The secretary added that the U.S. will continue to push for “a complete and transparent investigation” into the origins of the pandemic.

Last week, the U.S. joined 13 other countries expressing concern over the latest report published by international investigators with the World Health Organization into the origins of the virus, which focused on the first cases identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.   

The complaint cited concerns over the publication’s delay and lacked access to complete data.