US vaccine diplomacy head Gayle Smith leaves role

As Omicron spikes, country has committed to donating 1.2 billion vaccines globally with 260 million doses already sent

Gayle Smith meets Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal.  AFP

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The administration of US President Joe Biden's global Covid-19 response co-ordinator, Gayle Smith, has left her role after eight months, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, as the world grapples with the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The detection of a new variant that may be more transmissible than other forms of the virus has triggered new travel restrictions, including by the US, and spooked markets.

Ms Smith, a former US Agency for International Development (USAID) co-ordinator during the Obama administration, was appointed in April to lead US vaccine diplomacy efforts after Mr Biden pledged to share vaccine doses with other countries to help limit Covid-19's spread around the world.

The ONE Campaign, a global non-profit focused on poverty and public health where Ms Smith is president and chief executive, said at the time she was on a temporary assignment to the State Department, but no specific timeline was given for the role.

Ms Smith is returning to the ONE Campaign and her role will be filled by acting co-ordinator Mary Beth Goodman, a member of the State Department's Covid-19 team, Mr Blinken said in a statement.

“Eight months after asking Gayle to join the team, the United States has donated more than 260 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and economies worldwide — well on our way to fulfilling President Biden’s commitment of 1.2 billion doses,” Mr Blinken said.

Updated: November 30th 2021, 4:51 PM