Remarks by Vice President Harris At Virtual Global COVID-19 Summit
SEPTEMBER 22, 2021
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you to our Department of Health and Human Services Director, Loyce Pace. And good afternoon to all of you. It is truly an honor to be with you today.
As global leaders, each and every one of us has gathered here knowing that we are in a fight for our shared future. And the discussions happening today will shape what our world looks like not only today, but tomorrow. So, thank you to all of you for taking the time to join in this important meeting.
So, as I’ve said many times, I do believe that our world is embarking on a new era. The global pandemic was a turning point and, indeed, a tipping point. These past 19 months have revealed systemic flaws and reminded us of our collective resolve.
If we were not clear before, we know now: Our world is more interconnected, our world is more interdependent than ever before. And therefore, the only way to move forward, the smartest way to move forward, is together.
The task before us now is great. You have heard from President Joe Biden about what we must do to vaccinate our world — all of us working on that together — so that we can end this pandemic.
In addition, my focus today is to talk about what we must do to prepare for the next, because the truth is: The work to end this pandemic and prepare for the next is a strategic imperative. It is essential to our security and to our shared prosperity, and it will save countless lives.
However, at this moment, we must also agree that our world is not fully prepared to prevent, to detect, and to respond to future biological threats.
Indeed, we are taking some important actions to ready nations by strengthening health systems and supporting health workers.
But unless we establish a new financing mechanism, in my view, we will never be fully prepared.
Since the spring, I’ve been calling for such a mechanism. Italy too, as the President of the G20, has raised the need for financing.
And over the past months, our nations have met. And we have reviewed the reports. We have heard from the experts. And they have confirmed yet again: There is not enough funding to adequately prepare for future biological threats.
Friends, I do believe — I know we know this is a stark warning, and it should be a wake-up call for all of us.
Disease surveillance, vaccine development, vaccine delivery, healthcare worker support — nations need greater capacity, and they need it now.
In this new era, preparedness is a necessity. And it requires sustained and predictable funding that is on top of the emergency response mechanisms that already exist.
We need to act so that our world will be ready to respond before, and not after, the next pandemic emerges.
This pandemic caught us off guard, and it should not have. We have learned the cost of failing to prepare. With every death, we have learned all too much the seriousness of that cost. And it is time, then, to act.
And so, the United States joins the call for a new Financial Intermediary Fund at the World Bank, which will help us bring together new resources for pandemic preparedness.
And today, I am proud to announce that we — the United States — are prepared to contribute at least $250 million to help get this fund started. We have also requested an additional $850 million from the United States Congress. But again, it’s going to take all of us to get this work done.
We are issuing a call to action to countries and corporations from around the world to join us in this effort. And we have a collective goal of reaching $10 billion at the outset. And let’s put this in context: That is a fraction of a percent of global GDP.
We invite the nations gathered here to help us meet this, as some would say, ambitious, but I believe achievable, goal. We also see an important role and responsibility for the private sector. Those who can must do everything we can.
The Financial Intermediary Fund is an important step to build stronger, more resilient health systems, and ultimately to save lives. But it is just one step.
The pandemic laid bare the flaws within our systems and structures. As I’ve said many times, the fund will help address our capacity to prepare. However, to avoid the mistakes of the past and meet this present moment, we must also ensure transparency and accountability to ensure that all countries meet our global health obligations.
To that end, the United States also supports a Global Health Threats Council that would monitor progress and identify gaps. It is yet another step we must take to ensure that political leaders remain committed to the goal of preparedness.
Generations from now, I believe we will all be able to look back to this very moment, at the start of this new era, as the moment when our world joined together to realize a better future — a future in which all nations have equal capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats and are equally held to account; a moment when we join together to build a future in which all nations have strong and resilient health systems that all people can access; a future in which we can stop biological threats before they start.
This future is possible. If we work together, I do believe we can and we will make it possible. Thank you all again, and let us go forth together.