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Goldfarb Center held lecture on global pandemic response regarding COVID-19

The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs held a lecture discussing the global pandemic response at 7 p.m. on April 7. The lecture was part of the George J. Mitchell International Lecture Series, 2022. There will be more lectures in sequence later this semester that will continue into next semester. Participants could attend the lecture in person in Diamond or via livestream.

Gayle E. Smith was the invited guest speaker at this lecture. Last year, she served in the Biden administration as the U.S. State Department’s Coordinator for Global COVID Response & Health Security, where she played a leading role in the U.S. government’s effort to end the global pandemic.

Dr. Nirav Shah, the Maine CDC Director, welcomed the guest speaker and introduced the lecture.

Participants in the event included Colby faculty and students, as well as non-Colby members.

Dr. Shah appreciated students’ participation in the event: “I am particularly delighted to see so many students in the audience this evening,” he said.

“Attending lectures like this and hearing from individuals like Gayle Smith is truly what distinguishes just taking classes from going to college,” he said. He also encouraged students to take initiative and ask questions at the end of the lecture.

Shah then introduced the lecture and commented on the current COVID-19 issue.

“COVID is down, but it is not out,” he said. “There is more to be done. Specifically, for example, around vaccinating the world, how we will pay for this effort or more importantly what happens if we do not secure the funding for it.”

Shah summarized these concerns as “epidemiological questions” that need further consideration.

“Gayle Smith has served as a top advisor on international issues for three American presidents and is one of the world’s leading experts on global development and global health security,” he said. “She focused on COVID-19 financing as well as global efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines equitably and efficiently across the global.”

“Under Gayle’s leadership, there [have been] 260 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines [given to] more than 110 countries,” Shah continued.

Smith emphasized COVID-19 as a “global pandemic” ravaging multiple countries in the world and gave a “D” grade to the current response.

“We have tools and sciences that can bring [the pandemic] to an end earlier and more quickly,” she explained. “We take vaccines for granted living in this country. [Looking at how vaccines are arrayed,] we [may find that] we are exceedingly fortunate [since] the average for [receiving vaccines] is around 74 percent. In low-income countries, it is below 13 percent. Poor countries have to live with the virus with no choice because they are unable to get [enough] vaccines.”

She also discussed the possibility of temporal waving of “intellectual right” in order to produce and distribute vaccines worldwide.

Towards the end of the lecture, she proposed two questions to promote students’ thinking regarding COVID-19 and political issues in general:

“How do we think about modern threats? And how does the world cooperate to do things better and to react with a smarter, better strategy when facing national, economic threats such as COVID-19?”

Unlike previous lectures that let the professor lead the discussion, this time students were encouraged to ask the guest speaker more questions.

For those interested in listening to the lecture, the recording is available.

~ Kristen Shen `24

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