U.S. assistance to continue, says diplomat

The United States of America will continue to assist Samoa and the region throughout the post-pandemic era, according to the U.S. Embassy's Chargé d’Affaires, Jonathan Lee Yoo.

The Biden-Harris Administration announced last week that the U.S. will donate 80 million U.S. vaccines – the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines previously announced and at least an additional 20 million doses of U.S. authorized vaccines by the end of June.

The announcement is the Administration’s next step as we ramp up their efforts to respond to COVID-19 around the world. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer on Thursday morning, the U.S. Embassy's Chargé d’Affaires, Jonathan Lee Yoo, said the Government will dispense US$11.5 billion in new funding as part of their COVID-19 response.

The U.S. said it will work with its G7 partners, the European Union, the World Health Organisation-managed COVAX facility, and other partners to coordinate a multilateral effort focused on ending the pandemic.

The U.S. will also coordinate a multilateral effort to end the pandemic and look forward to progress on this at the G7 Summit in June.

Out of the US$11.5 billion, Mr. Yoo said a significant portion was earmarked for the W.H.O. managed COVAX (US$2 billion has gone to COVAX while another US$2 billion is soon to follow) while around US$7 billion is earmarked for other assistance.

In April, Samoa had received 24,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX.

By Thursday afternoon, the amount of people in the country that had been vaccinated had reached 30,496. Of that 30,496, 16,811 are men and 13,685 are women.

Mr. Yoo also said that the COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver, under which America supports waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, in order to boost their production in these extraordinary circumstances. 

America's Department of Treasury is working with the management of the International Monetary Fund and other members toward a US$650 billion general allocation of "Special Drawing Rights" to International Monetary fund members to support COVID-19 recovery.

Mr. Yoo had also emphasised the global vaccine manufacturing and producing raw materials as another assistance, as the United States is working with the private sector and all possible partners to expand global vaccine manufacturing and distribution, as well as production of vital raw materials.

With countries around the world continuing to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said there will be emergency assistance from the U.S. for countries in need.

President Biden from the first day in office had parted ways with his predecessor by re-engaging with the W.H.O. and committed to strengthening and reforming the organisation, and advancing global health security.

Mr. Yoo said the country will move ahead on expanding the Faleolo Hospital with work to commence next year, having previously being impacted by delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said US$1.26 million funding was approved last month and the project provides additional health care capacity for the medical facility built by the U.S. in 2012 and provides additional residences for duty Doctors and Nurses.

It will be a 24-hour medical facility on the western side of Upolu, which prevents the need for a 45-60 minute ambulance drive to the hospital in Motootua.

He said the U.S. Association for International Development continues its work on a COVID-19 response, climate change, vaccines, disaster risk management, gender inclusion and empowerment, food security and strengthening democratic governance.

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