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The G7 club of rich countries pledged nearly $7bn (£5bn) in extra funding on Friday to speed the distribution of Covid vaccines to the world’s poor, but the UN secretary general said the current effort to distribute doses equitably was chaotic and that a global emergency plan to fight the virus was needed.
The two-hour virtual G7 summit hosted by Boris Johnson led campaigners to demand more detail of the timing and substance of pledges. The G7 countries are thought to have bought about 1.5bn vaccines more than their populations will need, but any estimate is subject to many variables.
Johnson said before the summit that the UK would give the majority of its surplus to the UN-led Covax system for distributing vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he had told the G7 that the west should target 6.5 million health workers in Africa requiring 13m doses. Those doses amounted to 3.4% of the supply available in Europe and should be sent immediately,” he said.
If the west did not act quickly, African countries would feel forced to turn to Russia, China and the pharmaceutical companies, he added.
The Biden administration pledged a conditional $4bn to Covax, and the EU doubled its contribution to $1.6bn. The EU also promised $140m in “in-kind” help to Africa for the vaccination process. Germany separately provided a further $1.8bn, increasing an earlier contribution of $800m. Britain has already contributed $766m to Covax.
The G7 said in a joint communique that they had collectively provided $7.5bn to the scheme.
The UN secretary general, however, told the Munich Security Conference that 75% of vaccines had been monopolised by 10 countries, while more than 100 countries had not received a single dose.
António Guterres suggested that the wider G20 group of countries should set up an emergency team that could create a global vaccination plan. It should bring together countries, companies, international organisations and financial institutions with the “necessary power, scientific expertise and production and financing capacity”, he said, adding that he could mobilise the entire UN systemfor the task.
Bill Gates said the world’s poorest countries were at least six months behind the vaccine progress of the wealthy.
The World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for manufacturers to release more details of their vaccines to the WHO earlier. He said equity was not only the just thing to do but the smart thing to do, and that the world could end up back at square one if the virus was given too much time to mutate.
The very occurrence of a trouble-free G7 with a clear communique on issues such as zero carbon emissions and cooperation with the WHO marked a relative triumph for diplomacy.
By contrast Donald Trump refused to sign a joint statement after a tense G7 meeting in Canada in 2018, a short statement was issued in France in 2019 and an in-person gathering in 2020 was cancelled because of the pandemic. In a sign of their desire to work together, Japan claimed the leaders all pledged to work with it to stage the summer Olympics.
The only glitch came when Johnson had to ask the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to put herself on mute.
Aid agencies said the G7’s Covid proposals were too modest.
“Making huge parts of Africa and Asia wait for unwanted, leftover vaccines from rich countries’ stocks is not just immoral, it is irresponsible,” Oxfam said. “And the lack of coordinated action from the G7 is inexcusable. The longer huge swathes of the world’s population are denied protection, the greater the threat that virus mutations will threaten us all.”
Merkel told reporters after the summit: “We also have an obligation towards our own citizens … There has to be a balance.” She vowed that “not a single German vaccination appointment” would be affected by efforts to improve the global drive.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: G7 pledges extra $7bn towards Covid vaccines for world’s poorest | G7