WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris told United Nations members on Monday that now is the time for global leaders to begin putting serious work into how they will respond to the next global pandemic.
The virtual address, Harris' second to a U.N. body since her inauguration, comes as the United States makes progress on vaccinating the public and much of the world struggles to acquire vaccines.
“At the same time that the world works to get through this pandemic, we also know that we must prepare for the next,” Harris said. The speech was co-hosted by U.N. permanent representatives of Argentina, Japan, Norway and South Africa.
The Biden administration will mark its first 100 days in office this week. President Joe Biden is scheduled to address Congress on Wednesday and is certain to highlight the headway his administration has made in responding to the worst public health crisis in the U.S. in more than a century.
Harris' remarks broadly outline how the administration thinks the U.S. and other nations should consider focusing their attention. The steps include improving accessibility to health systems, investing in science, health workers and the well-being of women, and surging capacity for personal protective equipment and vaccine and test manufacturing.
Harris said much has been learned over the last year about pandemic preparedness and response but that it would be unwise to rest easy.
“We have been reminded that the status quo is not nearly good enough, and that innovation is indeed the path forward,” Harris said.
Biden’s ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is also scheduled to deliver remarks at Monday’s virtual event and intends to call on nations to “build the pandemic preparedness architecture for the future."
“The takeaway from this past year is clear: The world barely withstood this pandemic,” Thomas-Greenfield says in excerpts of her prepared remarks. "We must be ready for the next.”