Biden administration names top official for U.S. vaccine diplomacy worldwide

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden is seen as he tours a Pfizer manufacturing plant producing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S., February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Monday created a State Department position and named a coordinator to lead U.S. vaccine diplomacy globally as it sought to assure countries seeking more supplies from Washington that it was moving as fast as possible.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken named Gayle Smith, a former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinator who had helped lead the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, as the coordinator for the Global COVID Response & Health Security at the State Department.

In remarks at the Department, Blinken said Washington was aware that many countries in the world were asking the United States to do more to help boost the COVID-19 vaccine supply and that it was working as fast as possible to deliver that.

“We’ve already loaned vaccines to our closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and we’ll work with global partners on manufacturing and supplies to ensure there’ll be enough vaccine for everyone, everywhere,” Blinken said.

The United States, which has not yet authorized AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use, has said it planned to send roughly 4 million doses of that vaccine to Mexico and Canada in bilateral loan deals with the two countries. Washington has also announced that, with three of its closest Indo-Pacific partners, it was committing to supplying up to a billion coronavirus vaccine doses across Asia by the end of 2022.

Blinken said Smith has experience in combating global health crises, including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Recently, she was the CEO of the ONE Campaign, a global organization working to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030.

Speaking after Blinken, Smith said “with unity of purpose, science, vigilance and leadership,” the world could outpace any virus.

“American leadership is desperately needed and I’m extremely confident that we can rise to the occasion,” she added.

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