By Jaya Ramachandran
GENEVA (IDN) — The leaders of seven industrial nations, constituting the Group of Seven (G7 Summit), have pledged in a landmark agreement to share COVID-19 vaccine doses internationally, in support of global equitable access and to help end the acute phase of the pandemic. In doing so, they have built on the momentum of the G20 Global Health Summit hosted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on May 21 and the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit hosted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan on June 2.
The G7 countries meeting committed to sharing at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines directly, with the aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021, and reaffirmed their support for COVAX as “the primary route for providing vaccines to the poorest countries.”
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO)—working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others.
It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States and the G7 countries. The European Union (EU) joined them at the G7 Summit from June 11-13 in Cornwall in the UK.
The Group of 20 nations (G20) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are: Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, US, India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, UK, China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.
COVAX partners have welcomed the commitment, along with continued support of the G7 Summit for exporting in significant proportions, promotion of voluntary licensing, and not-for-profit global production. COVAX looks forward to seeing doses flowing to countries as soon as possible.
Facing an urgent supply gap, COVAX is focused on securing as many shared doses as possible immediately, as the third quarter of this year is when the gap between deliveries and countries’ ability to absorb doses will be greatest.
COVAX will work with the G7 and other countries that have stepped up to share doses as rapidly and equitably as possible. This will help address short-term supply constraints currently impacting the global response to COVID-19 and minimize the prospect of future deadly variants, according to a press release on June 13.
In anticipation of the large volumes available through the COVAX Facility deals portfolio later in the year, COVAX has also urged multilateral development banks to urgently release funding to help countries prepare their health systems for large-scale rollout of vaccines in the coming months.
“This is an important moment of global solidarity and a critical milestone in the push to ensure those most at risk, everywhere are protected,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “As we strive towards our goal of ending the acute phase of the pandemic, we look forward to working with countries to ensure these doses pledged are quickly turned into doses delivered.”
“This is an historic moment—as leaders of some of the wealthiest counties come together to ensure that all parts of the world have access to life-saving vaccines,” Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), added.
“This pandemic has shown us that we cannot set national against international interests. With a disease like COVID-19 we have to ensure that we get it under control everywhere. There is still much to do to get vaccines in arms and ensure our R&D allows us to stay one step ahead of the virus. But for today we give pause and celebrate a watershed moment of political alignment and collaboration.”
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, also known as the United Nations Children’s Fund, said: “We have reached a grim milestone in this pandemic: There are already more dead from COVID-19 in 2021 than in all of last year. Without urgent action, this devastation will continue. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us—children included. UNICEF thanks G7 member states for their significant pledges and continued support.”
However, added the UNICEF chief, “much work remains to continue to ramp up both the amount and the pace of supply to the rest of the world because when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, our best interests and our best natures align. This crisis will not be over until it is over for everyone.”
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed: “Many other countries are now facing a surge in cases—and they are facing it without vaccines. We are in the race of our lives, but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line. We welcome the generous announcements about donations of vaccines and thank leaders. But we need more, and we need them faster.”
“Africa’s current vaccine supply shortage risks prolonging the pandemic, not just for millions on the continent, but for the whole world,” said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, AMREF Health Africa. “I applaud the Group of Seven’s leadership in sharing doses with COVAX and urge them – and others to share doses now, not later in the year, when our need is greatest.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 June 2021]
Photo: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses with the world leaders at the extended family photocall during the G7 Summit at Carbis Bay Hotel in Cornwall, UK on June 12, 2021. Source: Wikimedia Commons.