The State Department on Monday tapped a former Obama administration official who led the American response to the Ebola crisis to coordinate vaccine diplomacy efforts, at a time when foreign countries have been turning to the U.S. for a boost to their vaccine stockpiles.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the appointment of Gayle Smith as the coordinator of the United States’ global Covid response and health security. Smith, who served as administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development under former President Barack Obama, will step into the State Department role at a time when the U.S. has made progress on beating back the coronavirus and seeks to provide more support on the global stage.
“We have a duty to other countries to get the virus under control here in the United States,” Blinken said. “But soon, the United States will need to step up our work and rise to the occasion worldwide because, again, only by stopping Covid globally will Americans be safe for the long term.”
In his remarks, Blinken emphasized the need for American leadership and said the administration was exploring options to share more vaccine doses with other countries.
Blinken said that the U.S. had loaned vaccines to Canada and Mexico so far and hoped to work with global partners to make sure there is enough vaccine supply globally.
“We hear you,” Blinken said, assuring countries that the U.S. was “moving as fast as possible” and had no interest in trading shots for political favors.
“As we get more confident in our vaccine supply here at home, we are exploring options to share more with other countries going forward,” he said. “We believe that we’ll be in a position to do much more on this front. I know that many countries are asking for the United States to do more.”
Smith, chief executive of the ONE Campaign to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, will be “on temporary assignment to the State Department,” the organization said in a release.
“If the virus is moving faster than we are, it’s winning,” Smith said after Blinken’s announcement. “But with unity of purpose, science, vigilance and leadership, we can outpace any virus.”