SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Inaudible) Thank you and Japan for your leadership today and throughout. It’s much appreciated, and I think I vehemently agree with just about everything you just said. Japan has played a critical role in our global COVID action plan, especially last mile support, such as expanding cold chain technology so more vaccines can be shipped to more places. locations. And let me also thank Director General Tedros of the World Health Organization for joining us today and for his day-to-day leadership in this global effort.
In February, when we foreign ministers last met on COVID, we launched the Global Plan of Action to try to accelerate progress in six key areas of effort focused on the areas where the needs are greatest, where we have identified the greatest gaps: getting more shots in the guns, strengthening our supply chains, closing information gaps to try to increase confidence in vaccines, provide more support for frontline workers, increase access to treatments and therapeutics, and finally, build a stronger and more effective global health architecture for the future. And you’ve heard Foreign Minister Hayashi address virtually all of these lines.
And what is so inspiring is that countries have come together to take responsibility for individual lines of effort based on their unique capabilities, with rigorous coordination across all of these lines of effort. Because at the end of the day, this is the only way to finally succeed in ending the acute phase of this pandemic. So I think it’s fair to say that since then we’ve made real progress on the six areas of effort that we decided on together.
Just on the shots, for example, among the 92 low- and middle-income countries supported by COVAX’s Advance Market Commitment program, vaccine coverage at that time has increased from 28% at the end of January to 48% today. This is real, significant progress – insufficient, but truly significant.
We see individual countries making major progress. For example, Malawi, which recently focused on vaccinating the elderly with a campaign that reached more people in two days than all previous efforts combined – targeted campaigns like these are essential in trying to fill immunization gaps. To that end, the United States began distributing doses of the pediatric vaccine last month. It is for children from five to twelve years old. We have already donated more than six million doses to eleven countries and we will do more, because children everywhere deserve to be protected against COVID-19.
With regard to supply chains, our countries have started working on an international clearing-house platform for medical supplies that will make it easier for suppliers to connect with buyers, and will produce much greater efficiency. great in this effort.
To address information gaps, we have ongoing campaigns in a number of countries to tackle misinformation and disinformation. To cite a few examples, in the Philippines, the United States worked with religious leaders to build confidence in vaccines. These leaders have incorporated COVID-19 messages into their prayer services. They reached over half a million people in two parts of the country. Today, 97% of eligible people in these locations have been vaccinated.
In terms of supporting health workers, among the 92 AMC low- and middle-income countries, 75% of health workers have now been vaccinated.
On improving access to treatment, that is the next challenge we need to tackle together, and Foreign Minister Hayashi has also addressed it. And we are doing this, we believe, by accelerating our work on robust test-to-treatment programs that can connect a patient to treatment when they test positive. This reduces hospitalization; it saves lives.
And finally, on the broader improvement of global health security, last month the World Bank helped establish this new financial intermediary fund that Foreign Minister Hayashi mentioned, and we very much appreciate the initial contribution from Japan, Yoshi. This will help build national, regional and global capacities to prevent the next pandemic – or if not to prevent it, to ensure that we have in place what is needed to mitigate it and to help people.
Several donors have already come forward, including the United States. We pledged $450 million. We hope others will contribute because, as we have seen with COVID-19, sustainable funding is needed to break the cycle we often see: panic when something happens, then negligence after. one moment. This is what too often characterizes global health security.
All of these efforts will help us fight other epidemics that are happening around the world, such as monkeypox and other diseases. The health of our people is simply safer when we do this, when we work together. And I think we have already demonstrated this in the months since the launch of the Global Plan of Action.
Let me just congratulate all the people and all the countries that have risen to the challenge and shown leadership in all of these different lines of effort. Our list of partner countries has grown. This meeting is actually much bigger than it was six months ago. It is also an encouraging sign of the world’s commitment.
Now, again, to echo my friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we must continue but with even more urgency. We are seeing an increase in infections in all regions, as well as new, more transmissible variants, although vaccination remains a strong defense against hospitalization and death. Many of you are struggling with higher BA.4 and BA.5 infection rates, just as we are in the United States. These variants will continue to threaten us until we have vaccinated more people everywhere.
So we cannot be complacent. We must continue to attract attention. We must continue to mobilize commitment to ensure that ending COVID-19 remains a top priority for our governments and for our citizens. And we must continue to coordinate relentlessly, because this is the definition of a challenge that no country can solve alone.
We have two months left before we all meet at the United Nations General Assembly. I would therefore like to urge that we accelerate our work so that when we meet in New York, we have new progress to announce, new ideas to discuss, new innovations to share.
Again, to everyone here today, thank you for being part of what is truly a worthy endeavor on behalf of all the peoples of the world. Thanks.