U.S. COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy envoy returns to nonprofit group

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Gayle Smith speaks after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced her appointment as the new State Department Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security during an event on U.S. leadership in fighting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Al Drago/Pool

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WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The Biden administration's global COVID-19 response coordinator Gayle Smith has left the role after eight months, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, just 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 led to new travel restrictions, including by the United States, and spooked markets. read more

A State Department spokesperson said Smith had been on temporary leave from her role as chief executive of the ONE Campaign, a global nonprofit focused on poverty and public health, and her return to that role was expected for some time.

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"The department intends to announce a new coordinator soon," the spokesperson said.

Smith, a former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinator during Barack Obama's administration, was appointed in April to lead U.S. vaccine diplomacy efforts after President Joe Biden pledged to share vaccine doses with other countries to help limit COVID-19's spread.

Smith's role has been filled by acting coordinator Mary Beth Goodman, a member of the State Department's COVID-19 team, Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said that during Smith's tenure the United States has donated more than 260 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries. Biden has committed to distributing 1.2 billion doses.

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Reporting by Simon Lewis Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool

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