Boris Johnson Wants G7 to Commit to Donating One Billion Vaccines, But People’s Vaccine Alliance Calls for More
G7 leaders pose ahead of their meeting in Cornwall

Before the G7 leaders sat down on Friday afternoon in Cornwall to discuss how to “build back better” a world devastated by COVID-19, UK Prime Minister and summit host Boris Johnson challenged the Group to accept a target of providing one billion doses to developing countries.

But the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a network of over 50 organisations, has called on the G7 to “agree on a global goal to vaccinate 60% of the world by the end of 2021, with everyone reached in the next 12 months”. 

This would mean that 4.8 billion single-dose vaccines are needed – or 9.6 billion of the two-dose vaccines such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

In an article published on Thursday, Johnson urged the Group “to adopt an exacting yet profoundly necessary target: to provide one billion doses to developing countries in order to vaccinate everyone in the world by the end of next year”.

According to Johnson: “Our scientists devised vaccines against COVID-19 faster than any disease had ever been overcome before. Britain and many other countries are inoculating their populations more swiftly than anyone thought possible,” he added.

“Now we must bring the same spirit of urgency and ingenuity to a global endeavour to protect humanity everywhere. It can be done, it must be done – and this G7 summit should resolve that it will be done.”

Some 42% of G7 Residents Are Already Vaccinated

By the end of May 2021, 42% of people in G7 countries had received at least one vaccine dose, compared to less than 1% in low-income countries, according to the alliance. COVID-19 cases are surging in large parts of Latin America and Africa.

The US this week committed to donating half a billion Pfizer vaccines to the world’s poorest countries in the next year, according to a White House announcement on Thursday. Deliveries will start in August, and the US has undertaken to deliver 200 million doses this year and the remaining 300 million by mid-2022. Two doses of this vaccine are needed, so the donation will cover 250 million people.

Saturday’s agenda for G7 – which comprises the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and the European Union – will focus on global resilience, foreign policy (including aid) and health.

Leaders are expected to get into the details of vaccine distribution in the health session that will be addressed by the Gates Foundation’s Melinda French Gates and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

India and South Africa – co-sponsors of the TRIPS waiver proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) – have also been invited to the summit, along with South Korea, which has significant vaccine manufacturing capacity, and Australia. 

The World Health Organization, WTO, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and World Bank Group will also be in attendance.

But the People’s Vaccine Alliance has warned that any G7 promise to vaccinate the world by 2022 will not happen if governments continue to block proposals to waive patents and transfer technology and know-how.

It also wants the Group to “support the immediate suspension of intellectual property rules and enforce the transfer of vaccine technology to all qualified vaccine manufacturers in the world” and “pay their fair share of the money needed to manufacture billions of doses as fast as possible”.

‘Fantastic” French Support for TRIPS Waiver 

French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson greet each other at the G7 Summit.

“Of the G7 nations, only the US has explicitly supported waiving patents for vaccines – though not for treatments or diagnostics – and Japan has said it will not oppose the moves if they are agreed,” according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

“Germany and the UK continue to vehemently oppose the plan, despite its potential to massively increase vaccine production and save millions of lives, while Canada, Italy and France remain on the fence,” it adds.

However, following a quick visit to South Africa late last month, French President Emmanuel Macron appears to have climbed off the fence and stated on Thursday that he would support the TRIPS waiver.

Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, Anna Marriott, described this news as “fantastic”, and called on the rest of the G& countries to follow suit.

“It doesn’t make sense for the entire world to be dependent on just a handful of pharmaceutical corporations that cannot make enough vaccines for everyone,” said Marriot. 

“Developing countries do not want to be dependent on donations of leftover vaccines from rich nations, most of which won’t even be given until next year. They simply want the rights and the recipes to make these vaccines themselves as fast as possible and this is what must be agreed at the G7 summit this week.”

Ahead of the summit, the US and the UK agreed to a new effort to combat future pandemics, through a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the US National Centre for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis, run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The partnership will bolster “disease surveillance, as well as genomic and variant sequencing capacity worldwide” and establish an early warning system to detect diseases, particularly in low and middle-income countries that do not yet have the same capabilities.

This international approach to future pandemics builds on the Prime Minister’s recent launch of a new ‘Global Pandemic Radar’ to identify emerging COVID-19 variants and track new diseases around the world.


Image Credits: G7/UK.

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