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Remarks for Deputy Chief of Mission Linnisa Wahid: Zambia Achieves 70% COVID-19 Vaccination Announcement
November 3, 2022

As prepared for delivery

Remarks for Deputy Chief of Mission Linnisa Wahid
Zambia Achieves 70% COVID-19 Vaccination Announcement
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
State House, Lusaka

His Excellency, President of the Republic of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema
The President’s Special Advisor for COVID-19, Professor/Dr. Roma Chilengi
Zambia Minister of Health, Honorable Sylvia Masebo
Ministry of Health, Permanent Secretary, Professor Lackson Kasonka
Ministry of Health, Head of Infectious Diseases, Professor Llyod Mulenga
Ministry of Health and other Government of Zambia representatives present
Members of the Cooperating partner and international donor community
Esteemed guests

Your Excellency, Mr. President, and distinguished colleagues: it is a great honor to be here today to celebrate the attainment of a noble ambition—the vaccination against COVID of 70 percent of the eligible Zambian population;

This is an achievement forged in true partnership, that will also unlock countless opportunities for Zambia’s national development.

On behalf of the United States, I congratulate Zambia on its entry into a small- yet remarkable group of countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have attained the global goal of vaccinating 70 percent of their eligible citizens.

By doing so, Zambia is better positioned to save lives, unleash economic growth, and help lead as the global community moves forward beyond the most challenging pandemic that humanity has witnessed in more than a century.

Today, I have three main messages:  First and foremost, I would like to commend His Excellency President Hichilema for his vision and leadership to push for country-wide vaccinations.  Without this vision we would not be celebrating this milestone today.

I want to thank all frontline health professionals for their hard work, unwavering dedication, and fortitude in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Zambia. Without you, today’s announcement would not have been possible.

I want to also acknowledge and appreciate the steadfast leadership, sustained commitment, and perseverance of our colleagues at the Ministry of Health, Zambian National Public Health Institute, and the multitude of stakeholders and partners – from communities across this nation– without whom this tremendous achievement could not have been realized.

While the nation’s healthcare workers have been on the frontlines of the push to vaccinate, I want to emphasize that this achievement is also due to the hard work of so many others.

To every community and religious leader who contributed to this effort and underscored the importance of getting the jab to your constituencies, I thank you.

To every teacher who modeled the importance of vaccination to your students, I thank you.

To every person who talked a friend or family member into getting the jab when that person might have been a bit shy to get vaccinated, I thank you.

You have all played a huge role in the most important of partnerships, as this collaboration paid off and served as a winning formula – a formula that the U.S. government is extremely proud to have been a part of.

Second, I would like to emphasize the enormous impact of this partnership.  Over the course of just one year, the number of fully vaccinated Zambians increased from four percent to over 74 percent of the eligible population.

This success is due in part to building on and leveraging U.S. government support to the Zambian health system.  The U.S. government is honored to have partnered with the Government of the Republic of Zambia to make the goal of reaching and exceeding 70 percent coverage a reality.

Our government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and through U.S. Department of Defense, has provided nearly 1.9 billion kwacha ($120 million) to respond to, prevent the spread of, and recover from the toll of COVID-19 in Zambia.

In addition, the United States has shared over 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the people of Zambia – free of cost.

Globally, we have seen that COVID-19 vaccines are the most powerful tools we have to reduce the severity of COVID-19 illness, averting deaths, and preventing future waves and further impacts of COVID-19.

Vaccines save lives and mass vaccination campaigns can be instrumental in boosting COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

The nation-wide campaign that took place this month demonstrated the power of strong community engagement coupled with committed healthcare workers and community organizers who reached the furthest districts of this country.  They made sure people got vaccinated and, as a result, we are celebrating the fruits of their labor today.

The engagement of young people, those between 12 and 17 years old, proved successful and produced great results.

Take for example Gift Ng’andu, a 16- year-old learner from Mahatma Gandhi Secondary School in Mtendere.  Her motivation for getting vaccinated was to protect herself, her family, and other people from the deadly virus, a virus that, sadly, claimed the life of her uncle earlier in the year.

She shared her positive experience with the vaccine and encouraged her friends and family to get vaccinated so that they could be protected.

Additionally, the U.S. government supported integrating COVID-19 vaccination into HIV treatment centers to protect people living with HIV against COVID-19.

We supported continuation of life-saving HIV treatment despite the challenges and supported infection prevention and control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

And, while the push to vaccinate has saved countless lives, this partnership has also unlocked economic growth— growth that would not have been feasible had we not achieved such tremendous progress. As you are aware when a family member gets ill it can have devastating economic repercussions on the family and inhibit the economic growth of the family.  Therefore, when people are vaccinated they are less likely to suffer the severe consequences of COVID-19 and can contribute to economic growth.

Third, and finally, while today is about celebrating a watershed achievement, we must remind ourselves that our work is not finished yet.

With case numbers rising in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, and new variants springing up, we must brace ourselves for the reality that, although we might be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 is not done with us.

So, if you are part of the 30 percent of the eligible population who has not yet gotten vaccinated, please protect yourself and your families by getting the jab today.  If you are eligible for a booster shot and haven’t yet figured out a time to get boosted, don’t wait any longer.

Once again, I congratulate His Excellency President Hichilema and all Zambians on this remarkable achievement and momentous event.  And although COVID-19 is still with us, there is nevertheless much to celebrate today.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here with all of you to commemorate this occasion, and best wishes for continued success going forward.