US opens Southeast Asia CDC office in Hanoi

By Viet Anh   August 25, 2021 | 10:06 pm GMT+7
US opens Southeast Asia CDC office in Hanoi
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the launch of the U.S. CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi, August 25, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Vu Anh.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched its Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi Wednesday to facilitate pandemic responses in an interconnected world.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, visiting U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught countries that the world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before and the threats nations face are accelerating more rapidly.

In this new era, partnership is essential. Countries must be willing to take on the challenges together to create opportunities. Nations know that the Covid-19 pandemic will not be the last threat of its kind that people face, countries should be better prepared for the next one, she said.

In this context, the U.S. wants to help improve public health infrastructure across Southeast Asia, Harris said, adding that her country strongly supports ASEAN's centrality by helping member countries acquire expertise and infrastructure for dealing with Covid-19 and other pandemics in the future.

"That is why the launch of this CDC office and our work together is so very important."

Harris noted that 110 million vaccine doses have shipped out worldwide from the U.S.; and more than 23 million of these have been delivered to Southeast Asia.

The U.S. has also pledged $500,000 for the ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund to support the purchase of more vaccines. It has provided more than $150 million in emergency assistance for the countries of this region to administer vaccines and to help patients recover, she said.

The U.S wants to work with ASEAN to improve readiness and response in the inevitable event of a future pandemic or another public health crisis. The opening of a regional CDC office is a true testament of the U.S.’s commitment to this region, she said.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said the launch of the CDC regional office in Hanoi demonstrated the development and vast potential of the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the U.S.

It also reflected the high priority that the U.S government places on cooperation with the region in health care and disease control. This is a testament to the ever growing collaboration between the U.S and the region, for mutual interest and for global efforts to protect the health of the people, he said.

"We are also convinced that the office in Hanoi will work closely with partners within and outside the region in pursuit of the crucial goal of ensuring the best healthcare services for the people."

Minh said Southeast Asian countries and the U.S have worked closely together to combat the pandemic, mitigate consequences and foster economic recovery. These endeavors include cooperation to maintain supply chains and mutual assistance in terms of medical equipment and supplies.

He said he hoped that Harris will continue to devote due attention to encouraging U.S. partners to provide vaccines, medications and medical equipment to Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam in a timely manner "to help countries overcome the pandemic, resume production and business activities and foster economic development...."

National, regional priority

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky re-emphasized VP Harris’s statement that the U.S. and partners share the understanding that health security must be a national security priority. And given that such diseases know no borders, it is also a regional security priority.

"The new office in Hanoi will be essential for global health security and help countries strengthen public health fundamentals throughout the region. It will be the hub for understanding the unique health challenges in Southeast Asia, and in doing so will undoubtedly save many, many lives," Walensky said.

Chair of the ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting, Indonesia's Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said he believed that the U.S.-ASEAN partnership was a stepping stone for countries in the region to build stronger, more responsive and resilient health systems, especially in facing future threats to global health security.

ASEAN looks forward to the U.S. CDC exploring areas of collaborations, the provision of technical assistance, exchanges in supporting the operations of ASEAN Center for Public health emergencies and emerging diseases, he said, adding: "The first priority is achieving ASEAN vaccine security and self-reliance, which is very important right now."

John MacArthur, MD, will be the new CDC Southeast Asia Regional Director. Prior to this appointment, Dr. MacArthur served as the CDC Thailand country director for more than six years. He also served as the CDC’s Team Lead for the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, a $620 million per year program to control malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

According to the U.S Embassy in Hanoi, in addition to the Southeast Asia Regional Office, CDC also recently established Regional Offices in Eastern Europe/Central Asia (Georgia), the Middle East/North Africa (Oman), and South America (Brazil).

The embassy said CDC was "uniquely suited to increase American engagement and collaboration with Southeast Asian leaders to enhance regional capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases and other emerging health threats."

It said priorities for the new regional office would include: building tomorrow's public health workforce; expanding regional public health laboratory training; developing innovative programs to improve health for mobile and migrant populations; ensuring a coordinated response to public health emergencies through networked Emergency Operation Centers; and strengthening the early warning system for the detection of zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases.

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