Kemi Osukoya

April 5, 2021

Acceding to a growing chorus of appeals from other developed world leaders, the Biden administration has named former U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator, Gayle Smith to take charge of its global Covid Response and Health Security efforts. 

Secretary Antony Blinken made the announcement and subsequently introduced Ms. Smith during his speech at the State Department on Monday, where he discussed the Biden administration’s domestic and global covid response efforts.

Unlike other Biden administration’s senior officials, Smith’s assignment is temporary. She currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the ONE campaign, where took a temporary leave in order to help the Biden administration.

“While American people can take hope and pride in the fact that we’re making strong progress against the virus at home, a credit to our health workers, our scientists, our government. Still, we’re not at the finish line yet.  We can’t afford to ease up. This pandemic won’t end at home until it ends worldwide,” stated Secretary Blinken, underscoring why the administration is stepping up its global efforts to help mitigate and combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 555 thousands Americans and almost 3 million people, globally and more than 131 million global confirmed case.

“The world has to come together to bring the COVID pandemic to an end everywhere.  And for that to happen, the United States must act and we must lead,” the Secretary said, noting that it is important to understand that even if all 332 million Americans get inoculated “tomorrow, the [country] would still not be fully safe from the virus. Not while it’s still replicating around the world and turning into new variants that could easily come here and spread across our communities again and not if we want to fully reopen our economy or start traveling again.  Plus, if other countries’ economies aren’t rebounding because they’re still afflicted with COVID, that’ll hurt our recovery too.”

Blinken’s remarks comes nearly a week after 24 world leaders, including heads of state such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and global agencies, urged for an international pandemic treaty that will help establish better systems to manage potential future pandemics. The system will include emergency alert, data sharing, vaccines distributions and supply of protective gears.


During the G7 Leaders meeting in February, President Joe Biden Jr. announced a $2 billion donation to COVAX program, the international efforts managed by GAVI, which will supply COVID vaccines to low-income and middle-income countries. An additional $2 billion matching pledge was made to provide as other countries fulfill their own pledges. 

Blinken said the recent funds, more than $11 billion from the U.S. Congress will be used in several ways to support America’s global COVID response, including to save lives by supporting broad and equitable vaccine access; providing aid to mitigate secondary impacts of COVID, like hunger; and helping countries boost their pandemic preparedness.

“This builds on a long tradition of American leadership,” Blinken noted. “The United States is the world’s largest donor to global health by far, including through international efforts like the Global Fund and the World Health Organization – and through our own outstanding global health programs, like PEPFAR, which has helped bring the world to the cusp of the first AIDS-free generation.”

Blinken said the U.S. will work with its global partners on manufacturing and supplies to ensure there will be enough vaccine for everyone, everywhere.

“As we get more confident in our vaccine supply here at home, we are exploring options to share more with other countries going forward. I know that many countries are asking for the United States to do more, some with growing desperation because of the scope and scale of their COVID emergencies.  We hear you.  And I promise, we’re moving as fast as possible,” pledged Blinken.

Highlighting her previous coordination experience that helped defeat viruses like the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Smith said the U.S. enhanced global covid efforts is desperately needed.

“I fought some viruses in the past, and I’ve learned two lessons.  The first is that if the virus is moving faster than we are, it’s winning.  The second is that with unity of purpose, science, vigilance, and leadership, we can outpace any virus. America’s done it before,” she said. “Our challenges now are two: first, to shorten the lifespan of a borderless pandemic that is destroying lives and livelihoods all over the world, and the second is to ensure that we can prevent, detect, and respond to those future global health threats we know are coming.”