The COVID-19 pandemic took a devastating human toll on Latin America and the Caribbean, taking the lives of more than 2.7 million people across our hemisphere — accounting for more than 40 percent of global reported deaths. It showed us the many cracks in our global health systems and underscored the importance of strong and resilient health systems for the entire population, health security, and pandemic preparedness and response, starting with a strong foundation based on cooperation, transparency, and accountability.
Today President Biden led leaders of the Americas in adopting an “Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas.” The Action Plan will help our partners prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemic threats and other public health emergencies while also expanding the equitable delivery of healthcare and public health services to remote, vulnerable, and marginalized populations. As implementing this Action Plan will require additional investments in our health systems, the Administration is proud to announce the Americas Health Corps, a new initiative aligned with the recently announced Global Health Worker Initiative.
The Administration remains committed to advancing pandemic response and global health security and has prioritized additional activities in the Americas for this year and into the future. These activities will help the region better respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future pandemics by building the capability to prevent outbreaks, detect infectious disease threats, and respond effectively when outbreaks occur.
Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas: Leaders committed that this Action Plan — which will strengthen our health systems and coordination, preparing us for future health emergencies and improving regional coordination, transparency, and accountability — will be fully in effect by 2030. This work requires close coordination among governments and engagement with the private sector and civil society. With this in mind, the Administration is poised to launch the Economy and Health Dialogue of the Americas, and looks forward to working with health and economy ministries to create and implement the Action Plan in coordination with the private sector and civil society. Their efforts will strengthen public health and health care systems, consider how to make access to public health services and health care more equitable, and enhance pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response while increasing economic resilience in the region.
Strengthening the Health Workforce: The U.S. Government intends to continue and expand investments in the health workforce, which is central to strengthening the resilience of health systems. The U.S. Government and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched Americas Health Corps — Fuerza de Salud de las Americas — which will provide basic and specialized training to 500,000 public health, health science, and medical professionals throughout the region within five years. In line with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Global Health Worker Initiative, the Americas Health Corps will support the expansion and training of a robust, resilient, and highly skilled workforce capable of providing health services to all segments of society. The Americas Health Corps will function as a consortium and partner with academic institutions in the United States and throughout the Americas region to leverage and expand existing U.S. Government and PAHO training programs. It will serve as an opportunity to work together on promoting the next generation of global health workforce leaders by identifying, mentoring, and empowering professionals and community health workers, which will strengthen and expand health system capacity and equitable access to health systems in the region.
United States COVID-19 Response in the Americas: As the Americas face a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the threat of new variants, the U.S. Government remains committed to ending the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting recovery in the region. During the Second Global COVID-19 Summit on May 12, 2022, the U.S. Government reiterated its commitment to get shots into arms, enhance access to testing and treatment, protect the health workforce, and finance and build health security for future pandemics and other health crises. The Summit raised more than $3.2 billion in new commitments, yet significant gaps remain.
- Vaccinating the Americas: In support of the global effort to vaccinate 70 percent of the population in all countries, the U.S. Government has donated more than 65 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean and invested more than $94 million in complementary assistance to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations and ensure safe delivery, distribution, and administration of these vaccines. As part of the whole-of-government Initiative for Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX), the United States will continue to help ensure vaccination of eligible populations, with an emphasis on countries where coverage remains well below the regional average, by:
- Leveraging long-standing U.S. Government health investments, such as the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to strengthen systems needed for vaccine delivery and to get shots in arms;
- Establishing vaccination sites, including mobile units, to expand access to vaccines;
- Fighting misinformation and disinformation to increase vaccine confidence and demand — including amongst rural, indigenous, migrant, and health worker groups where hesitancy may remain high; and
- Evaluating the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccination programs.
- Saving Lives Now: COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the Latin American and Caribbean region. The region has been one of the hardest-hit by the virus, with over 40 percent of total COVID-19 deaths reported globally, despite making up only 8 percent of the world’s population. The U.S. Government is building off decades of investments in the region’s health systems. This includes:
- Continuing efforts to detect and characterize new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19; and
- Fostering closer ties with other partners in the Americas, including PAHO, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, and countries’ Chief Medical Officers.
Strengthening Global Health Security in the Americas: The Biden-Harris Administration understands that the health of one is directly connected to the health of all. That is why the United States is committed to continuing to engage with partners throughout the Americas to strengthen our global health security by:
- Expanding the number of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) experts on the ground at the CDC South America Regional Office and through a new CDC Central America and Caribbean Regional Office in Panama, and increasing engagement with regional organizations including detailing staff to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA);
- Expanding USAID’s global health security programs and staffing to seven countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, as requested in the President’s Budget;
- Expanding the U.S. Government commitment to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) by adding Guatemala as an intensive support country, a group of countries that the U.S. Government has pledged to help meet the GHSA 2024 overarching target; and
- Diversifying public health supply chains through bilateral and regional engagements and supporting regulatory capacity for a faster and more agile response to future biothreats.
These collective efforts will be complemented by expansion of health security programs including:
- Strengthening surveillance networks, laboratories, and data modernization in South and Central America through development and improvement of National Public Health Institutes;
- Improving detection and response to infectious diseases by supporting acute febrile illness surveillance and increasing capacity for genomic surveillance in Central and South America;
- Building partnerships in Costa Rica and beyond to implement a climate-based dengue early warning system through State’s regional science hub and Embassy Science Fellows;
- Strengthening partnerships with private, non-governmental, and international organizations to improve global health security in intensive support countries and throughout the region;
- Identifying and engaging new partners to join the GHSA Legal Preparedness Action Package to build capabilities in countries to map, develop, refine, and utilize legal frameworks and authorities to prepare for and respond to health emergencies; and
- Exploring the development of a South America One Health University Network through State’s regional science hub for South America and its Embassy Science Fellows program.