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Blinken says US won’t trade Covid shots for political favors

“This is about saving lives,” Blinken said during remarks at the State Department. “We’ll treat our partner countries with respect.”

Blinken made the announcement and unveiled a new Covid coordinator, Gayle Smith, as the US has come under increasing criticism for its failure to share unused vaccines with other countries, even as Russia and China have aggressively pursued vaccine diplomacy with nations around the world.

“As we get more confident in our vaccine supply here at home, we are exploring options to share more with other countries going forward,” Blinken said. “We believe that we will 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, 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.”

Blinken did not describe the vaccination levels in the US that the Biden administration is hoping to hit before sharing more vaccines globally.

He underscored the need for global cooperation and for the US to help other countries.

“Even if we vaccinate all 332 million people in United States tomorrow, we would still not be fully safe from the virus,” the top US diplomat said in remarks at the State Department. “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.”

“This pandemic won’t end at home, until it ends worldwide,” Blinken said.

‘Core values’

He also outlined other “core values” that he said will guide the State Department’s plans, making what appeared to be a swipe at Russia and China.

“We won’t overpromise and underdeliver. We’ll maintain high standards for the vaccines that we help to bring to others, only distributing those proven to be safe and effective. We’ll insist on an approach built on equity,” Blinken said.

China has taken a different approach to the US and is exporting vaccines widely before making them widely available at home. Russia and India are also sharing vaccines but not on the same scale as Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced last month that it is providing free vaccines to 69 countries and commercially exporting them to 28 more.

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Blinken also introduced Smith, the head of the ONE Campaign and former head of the US Agency for International Development, who will become the State Department coordinator for international efforts to fight the Covid pandemic.

Noting her experience leading the US response to the Ebola crisis in 2014, and working on the global fight against malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV AIDS, Blinken said Smith is “tested. She’s highly respected. She will hit the ground running….

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