Britain announced on Thursday, June 10, that G7 leaders will agree to expand global COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to provide at least one billion doses to the world through sharing and financing schemes.
The announcement came after the US announced a donation of 500 million vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries.
The United Kingdom, which is hosting the meeting of the world’s major powers in southwest England, said it would donate at least 100 million extra doses over the next year, with five million starting in the coming weeks.
Richer countries have been urged to step up their efforts to share COVID-19 vaccines with developing countries, with charities warning that the current situation is dangerous.
On the eve of welcoming world leaders from the Group of Seven wealthy nations to their first summit in nearly two years, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged that this would change soon.
As a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them, he said.
At the G7 Summit, I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges.
At the Summit, world leaders are expected to announce they will provide at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the world… and set out a plan to expand vaccine manufacturing in order to achieve that goal, according to a statement from Downing Street.
Meanwhile, EU members have committed to donating at least 100 million doses by the end of 2021, with France and Germany each pledging 30 million. President Emmanuel Macron of France has issued his own call for vaccine manufacturers to cooperate.
Following the announcement of Washington’s donation, US President Joe Biden hailed it as a “historic” moment in the fight against the pandemic.
At the start of his first overseas trip as president, Biden told reporters, “This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation to save as many lives as we can. “Because of the risk of variants, Biden said the move was also in the US’s best interests, while the White House said the decision would “supercharge the global fight against the pandemic.”
The ongoing challenge of combating the virus was previously highlighted by the World Health Organization, which warned Europeans not to relax their guard because vaccination levels are still insufficient to prevent the virus from spreading.
According to an AFP count, over 100 million people in the 27-nation European Union, or 22.6 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The disparity between developed and developing countries was highlighted again on Thursday, when South Africa’s National Institute For Communicable Diseases announced that his country had technically entered the third wave, with more than 9,000 cases reported in the previous 24 hours.
After one state dramatically revised its data upwards, India reported a global record of more than 6,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day on Thursday, fueling concerns that the official tally of almost 360,000 deaths, the world’s third-highest toll, is woefully understated.
The United States has also faced criticism for sitting on huge stocks of unused vaccines.
But with more than 60 percent of Americans having received at least one shot, Washington has moved to reclaim global leadership with its huge donation which will be channelled through the COVAX programme which aims to ensure equitable global vaccine distribution.
The White House said the doses will start shipping in August.
Dismissing suggestions that it is in a so-called vaccine diplomacy contest with Russia and China, Washington has described its initiatives as a return to multilateral action after the nationalist isolationism under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
In Europe, some lockdown restrictions have been eased of late notably ahead of the Euro football competition starting Friday.
However, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director, expressed concern about complacency.
“Vaccination coverage is far from sufficient to protect the region from a resurgence,” Kluge told reporters, cautioning against repeating last summer’s “mistake” of easing protective measures too soon.
Meanwhile, Iran’s government has warned that recent success in containing the Middle East’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak could be reversed if the public fails to take precautions due to a vaccine shortage.
On Thursday, the country’s total infections surpassed three million, bringing the global total to nearly 174,350,990. More than 3.7 million people have died worldwide as a result of the pandemic.