SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I parachuted into the middle, so my apologies. (Laughter.) But I really did want to stop by. This is the very beginning of the Summit of the Americas, and it seems like this is a very important way to start. And Jose, thank you for bringing everyone together this afternoon.
Not only am I pleased to be here, I’m just pleased to see so much solidarity among all of our colleagues and all of our neighbors for what is I think a very important initiative. To state the obvious, we all know the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on virtually all of our communities. No part of the world has been harder hit than our own, and this is something that we have had to experience together.
We’ve been committed in the United States to doing everything we can to help get through COVID and get to a better place. We’ve had the opportunity to provide nearly 70 million vaccine doses in our own hemisphere through COVAX, making sure that there was appropriate and equitable distribution. We’re on our way globally over time to provide 1.2 billion doses of vaccines, again, mostly through COVAX to make sure that this is done in the most effective, equitable way possible.
But I think we also know, as we’re dealing with what remains of COVID, that we have a big challenge not with vaccine production anymore but with getting shots into arms. And so all of us together are working on ways to make sure that we can deal with those challenges – what we call in the United States the last mile, or maybe the last kilometer, where we have issues of cold chain storage, where we have issues of distribution, we have issues of making sure that our health care workers are supported. All of this we’re working on together.
But as we do that, I think what’s so important here is that we together learn from this experience and make sure that we strengthen our health care systems going forward. One of the other things that COVID has revealed in our own country as well as in our own hemisphere are serious inequities in the way health care is provided, is distributed, is made available to people. So we want to take that lesson to heart as well.
I know, Jose, you were starting to discuss or maybe you already have the initiative that brings us together, the Economic and Health Dialogue of the Americas. But I think our ability to exchange experiences, exchange ideas, and work together on strengthening our capacity to deliver basic health care to all of our citizens is one of the most important things we need to do. And as with anything in our shared hemisphere, we know that we’re going to be more effective and stronger if we’re doing it together. And so I really applaud this initiative. I think it will help build a greater political commitment to making sure that we’re addressing some of the gaps that exist in all of our societies when it comes to provision of health care going forward.
I know President Biden is going to have a chance to speak to this in the coming days. He very much looks forward to that and talking about how we can deepen partnerships across the board in our hemisphere. But I think in this particular instance, simply put, having a platform to share the lessons that we’ve learned together, having a platform where we can come together to strengthen our health systems – that is going to have a dramatic and powerful impact on the lives of all of our citizens.
So we know some – as with so many other things, disease has no respect for borders, and so we have to deal with this together, and I’m glad that with this initiative that’s what we’re doing. So thank you. Thank you for letting me parachute into the meeting.
UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: You’re always welcome. Great to have you.