Media CenterAhead of global COVID-19 summit, CRS calls for stronger leadership from U.S. government

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

You are here


Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(978) 884-0003

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, Sept. 16, 2021 – In the run-up to the “Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better,” Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has released updated guidance for the U.S. government on achieving vaccine equity. 

“The COVID-19 summit is a great way to call attention to the fact that far too few people have access to the vaccine worldwide,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ executive vice president for Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy. “A mere 3% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, compared to 60% of people in high-income countries. Until we close this gap, we’ll continue to be on the front lines advocating for change.” 

During the Sept. 22 summit, which the White House will convene, world leaders will be making new commitments toward tackling the virus. The administration has reportedly committed to vaccinating 70% of the global population by September 2022. However, low-income countries had administered less than 1% of the estimated 5.8 billion vaccine doses administered globally. 

“While the administration has made admirable strides in the race to get vaccines to vulnerable countries, far more can be done to speed up the process to ensure a truly equitable rollout,” O’Keefe said. “We urge our government to share a concrete, transparent plan that addresses everything from vaccine production to storage; from education to training. Commitments without concrete plans are just words.”

Beyond vaccine availability and access issues, other top concerns include vaccine hesitancy and a lack of capacity of local health systems to handle such large vaccine rollouts without additional support.

“To be a credible leader at the COVID Summit and to address unfulfilled commitments across the G-7, the U.S. must deliver,” O’Keefe said.

CRS’ updated policy recommendations for the U.S. government include:

  1. Put equity first: Immediately share more vaccine doses and materials with low-income countries. This includes accelerating its timeline for delivering on its current commitments while exceeding the scope of those commitments.
  2. Display global leadership in funding, sharing, and distributing vaccines equitably.
  3. Increase manufacturing capacity for vaccines.
  4. Ensure that vulnerable populations, including refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), are included in vaccine rollout strategies.
  5. Utilize faith groups and faith leaders to disseminate positive messaging for vaccine acceptance and counter misinformation.
  6. Continue to strengthen health systems while distributing vaccines.

“As we’ve said from the beginning—we won’t end this pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere. It’s time for the U.S. to double down on its commitments and actions so that ending the pandemic is not just a hope,” O’Keefe said. “Otherwise, we’ll all suffer from this virus indefinitely.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, CRS has reached more than 21 million people via its COVID-19 programming, including programming that helps prevent the spread of disease, and programming that bolsters the capacity of local health responders to fight it while assisting vulnerable families as they manage the long‑term impacts of the pandemic on their lives.

To read CRS’ updated COVID-19 vaccine equity policy brief in full, click here.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Online Tools:
CRS Online Press Room:

Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
September 16, 2021

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More