Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN High-level event on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Equitable Access to Vaccines, Tests and Treatments

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 23, 2022


Good afternoon. And thank you to everyone for coming together today. Thank you to the Secretary-General, UNICEF, WHO for your leadership on this issue.

In so many ways, the more than two years since COVID-19 entered our lives have been some of the toughest we’ve known. I think we can all remember where we were when we first realized just how much this virus would change things. Those were scary times.

Since then, millions – millions – have lost their lives and livelihoods. So many of us have personally lost loved ones and experienced devastating periods of isolation. And the aftershocks of COVID-19 – including economic dislocations, a global food insecurity crisis, and supply chain disruptions – have been profound to say the least.

But in many ways, these trying times have also shown us the best of scientific ingenuity, of ourselves, and of humanity. Health care professionals and frontline workers have stepped up in historic ways. The scientific community was able to develop, test, and start to rollout effective vaccines in under a year. And together, we have worked to distribute these vaccines around the world.

For our part, the United States has been proud to lead the global response to COVID-19. We have provided, in partnership with COVAX and bilaterally, more than 620 million safe and effective vaccine doses to 116 countries, including millions of pediatric doses. And we have committed to donating 1.2 billion doses in total – with no strings attached. These efforts have saved lives.

But we all know there is still much work to be done – especially when it comes to expanding equitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments. And that’s why we’re here today. Because we know that too many low- and middle-income countries are still far behind in their vaccination, testing, and treatment rates. So we must tackle difficult cold chain supply issues, address vaccine hesitancy, and expand distribution support and local production.

That’s exactly why we launched the Global VAX program. Through this initiative, we have provided resources to more than 70 countries, and we are surging support to developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce vaccination and treatment barriers.

And it’s why, earlier today, I was proud to lay out three new initiatives the United States is working on to make sure a more equitable provision of vaccines is available around the world. We’re launching “test-to-treat” pilot programs in ten countries to help people get screened for COVID-19 when they have symptoms and receive antiviral medication if they test positive. These programs will also help people avoid severe illness, reduce hospitalizations, and save lives. We also are improving access to medical oxygen. And we’re establishing an implementation group to improve global access to medical supplies and services through a global clearinghouse mechanism.

Our hope is to make supply chains more resilient, efficient, and equitable. As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, access to these essential supplies can mean the difference between life and death. The bottom line is this: We need to ensure that we are reaching the world’s most vulnerable. And that includes people living under brutal conflicts.

Aid organizations consistently face barriers when trying to deliver humanitarian assistance, including COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, to conflict zones.  That is simply unacceptable – we should not stand for it. Aid workers are prepared to deliver critical assistance to some of the hardest to reach populations. And it’s on us – it’s on us – to support them in every way we can.

Colleagues, if we stand united and marshal our collective resources and knowledge, I am convinced that we can move toward a brighter, healthier future for all. We can do this, and we must. Let us work together, at scale and with urgency, to save lives.

Thank you very much.