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Covid-19: G7 vaccine promises fail to meet scale of challenge, say critics

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1520 (Published 14 June 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1520

Opinion

G7 leaders made few concrete health-related commitments at Carbis Bay

  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. Tenterden, Kent

G7 leaders have committed themselves to provide one billion covid-19 vaccine doses for low and low-middle income countries over the next year, but the World Health Organization and campaigners said this falls far short of the 11 billion vaccine doses needed.

The Carbis Bay declaration signed at the G7 summit in Cornwall on 13 June also set out steps to prepare better for any future pandemic by improving early warning systems and increasing and coordinating global manufacturing capacity.1 And the 100 Days Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats report, prepared by the pandemic preparedness partnership formed to advise the G7, set out recommendations to shorten the cycle for the development of vaccines, treatments, and tests from 300 to 100 days.2

Of the billion vaccine doses pledged, at least 870 million will be shared directly by donating surplus supplies, with the aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021. Most of the vaccines will be delivered through the UN led Covax scheme. The UK said it will donate five million doses by the end of September, with a further 95 million doses within the next 12 months. The US has already committed 500 million doses.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, also announced that a new centre to develop vaccines to prevent zoonotic diseases spreading from animals to humans will be established at the Pirbright Institute in Surrey.

While welcoming the donations of vaccines,WHO’s director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “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.”

WHO warned that numbers of covid-19 cases had risen for the third week running in Africa and that vaccines were increasingly scarce. It said 47 of Africa’s 54 countries—nearly 90%—are set to miss the World Health Assembly September target of vaccinating 10% of their population unless Africa receives 225 million more doses now.

Writing in the Guardian the former UK prime minister Gordon Brown said the summit would be remembered “only for a colossal failure to honour Boris Johnson’s promise to vaccinate the world.”3

The summit made no progress on the demand from poorer countries for a temporary patent waiver on vaccines. The G7 agreed only to support manufacturing in low income countries and “will engage constructively with discussions at the World Trade Organization on the role of intellectual property.”

Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at the charity Oxfam, said, “Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world.” Calling for a waiver on intellectual property rights, he said, “By holding vaccine recipes hostage, the virus will continue raging out of control in developing countries and put millions of lives at risk.”

The G7 reaffirmed support for all pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator plan across treatment, tests, and strengthening public health systems, as well as vaccines. But WHO said there was still a $16bn gap in funding needed to fully fund the plan to get treatments, including oxygen, and tests to low and middle income countries.

Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, said, “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.”

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