CDA Kvien’s Remarks at the All-Ukrainian Forum on Coronavirus: Challenges and Response

February 8, 2021

Good morning everybody, it’s a real pleasure to be here with such a distinguish panel to discuss an issue that our new Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the “greatest challenge since World War II.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a terrible toll, that has stretched our economies, and placed extreme stress on health systems around the world, including in the United States. The emergence of new variants has broadened the challenge we face as we all race to vaccinate our citizens. Infectious diseases know no borders, so international cooperation is critical. That’s why today’s Forum is so important, and I’m so happy to participate.

The Biden Administration has enacted a decisive, science-driven approach to COVID-19 appropriate to the scale of the pandemic.

That effort continues at home even as we remain committed to mounting an aggressive, coordinated, equitable, and professional response through partnerships abroad, including with Ukraine.

S. support to Ukraine for combatting the pandemic so far totals around $48 million.

In partnership with the Government of Ukraine, we are using these resources to respond to the full range of challenges posed by COVID-19. U.S. support bolsters Ukraine’s health system and provides humanitarian assistance. It builds the resilience of small and medium enterprises to weather the economic damage. It also counters the COVID-related disinformation that threatens our collective ability to get this pandemic under control.

But I think we can agree that formidable challenges remain that will require even greater international cooperation.

In 2021, we entered a new phase in the fight with the pandemic, as vaccines began to be rolled out around the world. The promise of these vaccines allows us to start envisioning a post-COVID future.

And yet this crisis, unfortunately, is far from over. The roll-out of COVID vaccines will be the largest, most ambitious, and most complex vaccination effort in human history.

In this global effort Ukraine is not alone. Every nation around the globe is struggling with limited supplies and strained distribution systems. The United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to prepare for and implement COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

The Biden Administration has confirmed or affirmed America’s commitment to redouble efforts to support the global COVID-19 response and international vaccination efforts. In addition to our renewed partnership with the World Health Organization and the broader United Nations system, the United States will contribute $4 billion to support global access to COVID vaccines through a global vaccine alliance called Gavi, a co-leader of the COVAX Facility that Matthew mentioned earlier. That support is helping to ensure no country is left behind.

Even after enough COVID vaccine is available, however, it will be a major challenge to ensure it reaches everybody, particularly the most vulnerable groups. We are working closely with global partners to develop the logistics and supply chain systems needed to make mass vaccination possible.

In Ukraine, we responded immediately to the government’s request to support preparations to begin COVID vaccination. We are actively supporting the Ministry of Health in planning and preparations for the first phase of COVID vaccination efforts, including for the expected arrival of the first doses of Pfizer vaccines in the coming weeks from the Covax Facility which President Zelenskyy mentioned earlier this morning.

But after getting the vaccines distributed, we still have to confront the problem of vaccine hesitancy.

Reassuring the public that they will receive a safe, effective vaccine is one of the most important steps we can take to turn the tide in Ukraine’s fight against COVID.

Part of this reassurance will involve working together to fight disinformation. Ukraine is confronting malicious fabrications created and disseminated by media outlets serving as mouthpieces for Russia-backed politicians. These half-truths and lies reduce public confidence in science-based policy and Ukrainians’ trust in their government’s ability to deliver essential health services.

Open communication at all levels – combined with strong political leadership – is critical in bringing about a post-COVID reality in Ukraine. Debunking disinformation is a shared challenge that will require consistency, accuracy, and coordination over the long-term.

Finally, I want to emphasize that we, the global community, are in this together. We have stood together since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will continue in the same spirit of partnership that characterizes every element of our relationship. So with that I will say thank you, duzhe dyakuiu and I look forward to taking your questions.