Boris Johnson Pushes for Global Vaccination Target by 2022; 100 Former World Leaders Urge G7 to Donate US$ 44 Billion
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK, at a press conference in mid-May.

Boris Johnson, UK’s Prime Minister, called upon the leaders of high-income countries to commit to vaccinating the world by 2022 – ahead of Friday’s Group of 7 (G7) meeting of most industrialised nations. 

His appeal came as 230 prominent figures, including 100 former prime ministers, presidents, and foreign ministers penned a letter urging G7 nations to pay two-thirds of the US$66 billion needed to vaccinate low-income countries. 

The wealthy nations must make 2021 “a turning point in global cooperation,” said the letter. 

Johnson will host the first in-person G7 summit in two years in Cornwall, with the leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. 

“I’m calling on my fellow G7 leaders to join us to end this terrible pandemic and pledge we will never allow the devastation wreaked by coronavirus to happen again,” said Johnson in a statement on Saturday. 

“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history,” he added. 

World Leaders call on G7 to Fund Global Vaccination Effort

The open letter to the G7, championed by 100 former presidents and heads of state, said that the G7 should “lead the way” by paying US$43 billion to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. It is estimated that ACT-A will need US$66 billion over two years to fully fund the global vaccination effort. 

“For the G7 to pay is not charity, it is self-protection to stop the disease spreading, mutating and returning to threaten all of us,” said Gordon Brown, former UK Premier and UN Special Envoy for Global Education. 

“Costing just 30 pence per person per week in the UK is a small price to pay for the best insurance policy in the world. Savings from vaccinations are set to reach around US$9 trillion by 2025,” Brown said. 

Other signatories of the letter also include former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, former Prime Minister of Korea Han Seung-soo, former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, and former President of Ghana John Mahama. 

Public Support for G7 Investment in Vaccine Rollout and Sharing of Doses and Know-how

The plea coincided with a poll conducted by Save the Children, which found that support for G7 countries paying for global vaccinations was overwhelming among respondents across the G7’s European and American members. Japan, the G7’s only Asian member, was not included in the poll. 

In the UK, 79% of respondents were in favour of such a policy, 76% supported it in the US, 73% in Canada, 71% in Germany, and 63% in France.

Some 80% of the respondents backed both the sharing of doses and intellectual property for vaccines by G7 countries. 

“When it comes to vaccine justice what stands out is that people of different ages, in different locations and with different backgrounds are united,” said Bidisha Pillai, Global Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns Director for Save the Children. 

“They want the G7 to make the world safe again. Their publics will not accept anything less than a serious and fully-funded plan to crack the global COVID-crisis,” Pillai said. 

Commitments to Share Doses

Several G7 countries have announced plans to share doses, with the US pledging to donate 80 million surplus doses beginning in late June and Germany, France and Italy promising to share a total of 75 million doses. 

The UK, on the other hand, has committed to donating surplus doses but has not announced how many will be released or when. It is expected that Johnson will announce more details at the G7 summit. 

The UK has secured access to over 400 million jabs for a population of 66.6 million. Some 59.4% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

More than 85% of doses have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while 0.3% have been administered in low-income countries.

The comparison between vaccination rates in G7 countries and seven low-income countries with some of the world’s lowest vaccination rates is a stark visual representation of the inequity in the global vaccine rollout.

Sharing Vaccine Doses Versus Children’s Vaccination 

The stepped up pressure to share doses also comes at a time when the United States and European countries are beginning to vaccinate children and adolescents as young as 12, following regulatory approval of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine as safe for younger age groups. 

WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros has urged countries to postpone vaccinating children if it comes at the expense of vaccinating high risk groups such as older people and health workers in low- and middle-income countries.   

“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX,” said Tedros during a press briefing in late May.

“In low- and middle-income countries, COVID-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunise healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently,” Tedros added.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, at a press briefing in late May.

Other critics, however, have said that the issue is not so simple since some children have pre-existing conditions that require vaccination, and some high-income countries with traditionally high COVID rates may need to vaccinate children to advance herd immunity that also curbs the risks of variant spread.

A countermeasure to the emergence of new variants is to “get as many people within a population vaccinated and protected so the virus has less space to grow, less space to spread,” Anita Shet, Director of Child Health at the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Politico.

“It means that we need to get vaccines into most of the population regardless of age,” Shet added.

In addition, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the main ones to have been approved in the United States, the United Kingdom or Europe for use among children aged 12-15 – and that vaccine has limited utility in many low-income countries due to its ultra-cold storage requirements. 

Image Credits: Telegraph, WHO.

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