ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you, Reeta, and hello, everyone. Thank you for attending the Summit, thanks especially to our session co-chairs, Minister Sarr of Senegal and Minister Baerbock of Germany. Great to hear from you, especially on the eve of such an important meeting there in your home country, where Secretary Blinken is joining you.
We meet on a day in which, as Vice President Harris just mentioned, the United States has hit a very grim milestone that few of us ever imagined when we first heard of COVID-19: one million deaths. That devastation is compounded by the WHO’s recent statement that COVID-19 likely claimed almost 15 million lives around the world.
The scale of that loss is incalculable. But it reminds us of just how relentless an enemy we face. And it also reminds us that we cannot let up. There is a complacency that is emerging in many countries that says this pandemic is over. But we cannot just hope that Omicron is the last variant that takes precious lives and unleashes such human suffering—we have to work to make it such.
The good news is that we have seen major progress since the first COVID-19 Summit that President Biden chaired last September. We have eliminated the global shortfall in the supply of vaccines, as we’ve heard; there are now enough vaccines out there for everyone who wants a vaccine.
And the world has also significantly boosted vaccine coverage. Lower middle-income countries have increased coverage from 13 percent to 53 percent just since that Summit last September.
In the lowest income countries though, we know vaccination remains a challenge. Yet even there, we are demonstrating results–and above all, the frontline workers in those countries are demonstrating results. Last December, the United States launched the Global VAX initiative, in which we surged resources to 11 countries in sub Saharan Africa to support efforts to increase the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines—to get the shots from the tarmacs into arms. This entailed everything from helping national vaccination campaigns to building additional cold-chain capacity to creating mobile vaccination sites to fighting misinformation and has been discussed, the perception that COVID wasn’t much of a threat.
Working in partnership with these countries is leading to really concrete results. In Ghana, the percentage of eligible people fully vaccinated more than doubled between December and April, from 12.4 percent to 25.4 percent. In Uganda, the country jumped from a coverage rate of 20 percent of eligible adults getting one dose to 71 percent having received one dose. And that leap was just between November and April.
So, now is not the time to back down; it is the time to push ahead, even if this fight may drag on longer than any of us want. We have to be prepared to sustain the global vaccination effort well into 2023.
For donor countries, including the United States, that means we need to keep investing in shots-in-arms support. We have to focus on boosting vaccination coverage globally, especially as we’ve heard, among high-risk populations like the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and health workers–some of whom have still not been vaccinated. Bringing high-risk populations up over 90 percent coverage is the most powerful way to de-couple COVID death rates from case rates.
And as we vaccinate more and more of the world, we can better support the critical effort of testing and treating those infected with COVID-19 and invest in preventing future pandemics.
Today, USAID is committing $20 million to launch lifesaving test-and-treat strategies targeting those at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, while also planning to invest $200 million in a new fund to prevent future pandemics and strengthen health security.
To the countries with lower vaccine coverage, the world stands ready to support you. This Summit should make that clear if it wasn’t clear before. Where you show leadership and political will, the global community will work to provide necessary doses and the support to get those doses into arms. The commitments announced here today will provide new momentum to help you accelerate your campaigns.
And together, we can honor the lives of the millions we’ve already lost by doing all we can to protect those still at risk. Thank you so much.