Christina Bruff, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission
OAS Permanent Council
June 9, 2021
Good afternoon. I’d like to thank Ambassador Sanders and the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda for convening this special meeting.
I would also like to thank the Permanent Observers for their valuable contributions and their continued support of the OAS.
The Permanent Observers’ efforts to promote democracy, human rights, hemispheric security, and integral development are essential and highly appreciated. We urge you to continue to prioritize the critical work of the OAS.
With respect to an equitable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, I can reassure you that it is the biggest priority of the Biden-Harris Administration.
The United States, like all nations of the world, has suffered a tremendous loss of life as a result of the pandemic. We are profoundly aware that Latin America and the Caribbean suffered a sobering milestone last week: one million reported deaths from COVID-19. We join your nations in mourning and offer our sincere condolences for the loss of your loved ones, friends, leaders, and colleagues.
We are also aware that vaccination rates in the hemisphere are critically low, with many nations reporting well below 10 percent.
Let me assure you, the United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus.
On June 3, President Biden announced a framework for sharing at least 80 million U.S. vaccine doses globally by the end of June, including a concrete plan for distribution of the first 25 million doses.
This most recent announcement is in addition to the $2 billion the United States has provided to Gavi in support of COVAX and the additional $2 billion planned through FY 2022.
The United States will share at least 75 percent of its doses through COVAX, and 25 percent for immediate needs and to help with surges around the world.
Our vaccines will directly help countries in need and you, our neighbors. Our dose-sharing approach prioritizes Latin America and the Caribbean and follows the latest science and public health data.
We will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.
In addition to the importance of equitable and inclusive distribution of vaccines, my delegation would also like to emphasize the importance of vaccine efficacy.
Robust regulatory and scientific reviews are critical to the confidence of the global community in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines being deployed to end this devastating pandemic.
As the President has noted, the United States will not share vaccine doses in exchange for political favors, but as a continuation of the United States’ decades-long commitment to global public health.
We are also acutely aware of the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, particularly regarding our most vulnerable populations.
For that reason, the United States remains committed to the region’s economic recovery.
In March, President Biden launched the “Small and Less Populous Island Economies Initiative,” or SALPIE, an economic framework designed to strengthen U.S. collaboration with island territories in the Caribbean and beyond. Beyond addressing more immediate economic and humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, the United States welcomes the opportunity to partner with these economies to strengthen ties and advance important long-term objectives.
This is in addition to the United States’ consistent financial support of longstanding OAS programming that will contribute to recovery efforts, to include the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, the Small Business Development Centers, and the Americas Competitiveness Exchange, among others.
Further, I would like to take this time to highlight one of our newest initiatives in partnership with the OAS Secretariat for Integral Development. The Formalizing Women’s Economic Participation program will focus on increasing the participation of women in the formal economy, building the capacity of women entrepreneurs to build more sustainable businesses and access financial services and pandemic-related economic recovery assistance programs.
The United States is committed to leading the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Multilateral approaches are a critical component of this effort, and the United States will engage internationally to combat COVID-19, promote public heath, and advance global health security to save lives, promote economic recovery, and build better resilience against future biological threats.
Our efforts to end this pandemic and prevent or mitigate future threats will depend on a real commitment to transparency, to information-sharing, and to access for experts.
In the words of Secretary Blinken, “The world has to come together to bring the COVID pandemic to an end everywhere.” Truly, we are all in this together.
Once again, we thank the Permanent Observers for their commitment, engagement, and support. We value the opportunity for dialogue here today, and we look forward to working shoulder-to-shoulder with each of you to secure a better future for our region and the world.