Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales at the COVAX Pfizer Vaccine Handover

Ministry of Health Headquarters, Maseru, Lesotho, November 10, 2021:

Lumelang bo-‘M’e le Bo-Ntate,

Please allow me to start by paying my respects to
His Majesty King Letsie III,
The Right Honorable the Prime Minister,
Honorable members of His Majesty’s cabinet, especially the Acting Minister of Health Motlohi Maliehe,
Senior Government officials,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is once again my great pleasure to be here alongside Acting Minister Maliehe of Health to welcome the arrival of another shipment of COVID-19 vaccines in the Mountain Kingdom.  I am honored to receive 100,620 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that have been donated by the Biden-Harris administration to the government and people of Lesotho.  This shipment is part of the consignment of millions of COVID-19 doses donated to African countries through the COVAX facility, in close coordination with the African Union (AU) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today’s donation signifies the continuation of the United States’ global leadership in public health and the international COVID-19 response, which is critical to ending this pandemic.  As President Biden announced earlier this year, the United States will share over 1.1 billion vaccine doses around the world, and today’s delivery is part of that commitment.  As of November 7, the United States, through coordinated efforts with GAVI and bilateral agreements, has delivered more than 230 million vaccine doses globally.  Across Africa, we have provided over 60 million vaccine doses to 43 nations.  These vaccines are in addition to the $4 billion (approximately 61 billion Maloti) that the U.S. has already committed to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, making the United States the single largest contributor to the international response to COVID-19.

Since 2020, the United States government has moved swiftly to support the local response to control the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom of Lesotho.   The U.S. government has contributed $8.4 million (approximately 126 million Maloti) to help the Kingdom of Lesotho bolster its national vaccine campaign and protect Basotho from the ravages of COVID-19.  This support has focused on COVID-19 testing, clinical care, surveillance, vaccine preparedness, and risk communication and community engagement.  Additionally, we’ve also supported with in-kind donations such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and oxygen.

I wish to congratulate the government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Health for leading efforts to keep us all safe during this most challenging period. We acknowledge and are grateful for Lesotho’s frontline health workers and for their courageous engagement in the COVID-19 response across villages, councils, and all the districts that make up this beautiful Kingdom.  I also would like to recognize the incredibly impactful role played by our multilateral partners, especially the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the African Union, Africa CDC, and COVAX.  We thank you.

As we head into the festive season, now, more than ever, we must continue our efforts to recover from these devastating effects of COVID-19, we need to make sure that we all continue to adhere to safety precautions as guided by the WHO, and agencies like the CDC and the Ministry of Health here in Lesotho.  Consistently wear your mask when you are around others.  Regularly sanitize or wash your hands with running water.  Observe social distancing guidelines.

The support and continued partnership with the Ministry of Health and other development partners remains very critical to controlling the pandemic, slowing the emergence of new variants, and helping to restart the global economy.   To that point, allow me to underscore the commitment of the government of the United States to walk side-by-side with the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to support the country’s COVID-19 response efforts.  We are stronger working together — Letšoele le beta poho!

Thank you. Kea Leboha.

Khotso, Pula, Nala!