Poor countries urge G-7 members to share more Covid-19 vaccines

Public health officials and leaders in developing countries should pressure the Group of Seven countries to pledge large Covid-19 vaccine donations and billions in funding during a summit later this week, saying the developing world needs more help to emerge from the worst of the pandemic.

High vaccination rates are helping richer countries recover from the health crisis, with the number of coronavirus cases falling sharply and economies rebounding.

But even as rich countries begin to vaccinate low-risk people such as adolescents, many poor countries are lagging far behind in their vaccination efforts, hampering their economies and increasing the risk that these regions could spawn more dangerous variants. virus.

A number of rich countries, including the United States, have pledged tens of millions of doses for poor countries. Nonetheless, pressure is mounting on the leaders of the G-7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, to commit to do more at a summit that kicks off in the UK on Friday.

Officials in developing countries, as well as public health authorities, call on G-7 leaders to donate millions of vaccines to close a perilous supply gap over the summer and prevent vaccine deployments from completely stagnate.

“This is the most important G-7 in history because this one can dictate how quickly we can come out of this pandemic, and whether we save billions of dollars and millions of lives,” Bruce said. Aylward, Senior Advisor to the General Manager. of the World Health Organization and head of a partnership of international health groups, including the WHO, who are working together to overcome the pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund has proposed that rich countries give 250 million doses to poor countries this summer to keep immunization programs on track. What’s more, donations of an additional 750 million doses this year – injections that the IMF estimates rich countries can spare without hurting their own immunization programs – could help poor countries immunize 40% of their population by now. the end of 2021.

The IMF, whose proposal is supported by the WHO, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, also proposes that rich countries and multilateral organizations provide around $ 50 billion in funding to support immunization campaigns.

Such support could increase global economic output by some $ 9 trillion by 2025, said Gita Gopinath, IMF chief economist. “The important thing for the G-7 to recognize is that the window for realizing these gains is closing very, very quickly. We must act now, ”said Ms. Gopinath.

G-7 health ministers met at Oxford University last week ahead of the organization’s next UK summit


Photo:

WPA Pool / Getty Images

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend the G-7 meeting to discuss Covid-19 support for poor countries. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to attend in person, but a devastating wave of Covid-19 in India will keep him at home. His office said he plans to participate virtually.

MM. Ramaphosa and Modi also called on rich countries for funding and political support to build vaccine manufacturing capacities in developing countries to ensure a supply of booster vaccines to counter emerging viral variants.

The Covax initiative, a WHO-backed program to distribute vaccines in developing countries, faces “a huge hole” in supply by September, Aylward said. In the fall, he expects vaccine deliveries to resume, especially from Covax’s main supplier in India, which has banned vaccine exports to divert injections to its own population. If the immediate gap is not closed, “then we all have a problem,” he said.

So far, Covax has delivered 81 million doses to 129 countries, well below the 238 million targeted at the end of May and its target of 1.8 billion doses by the start of next year, a total that would cover 30% of the population of developing countries. .

Rich countries bought enough doses to vaccinate their populations multiple times, a purchasing strategy that made it difficult for Covax and poor countries to secure their supplies. As of the start of this week, high-income countries had administered 69 times more doses of vaccine per capita than lower-income countries, according to the WHO.


“It is the most important G-7 in history because it can dictate how quickly we can come out of this pandemic and whether we save billions of dollars and millions of lives.”


– Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization

The United States has pledged to share 80 million snaps by the end of June, but has not announced any further donations. The European Union has said it will give at least 100 million doses by the end of the year, without specifying when. Other G-7 members, including the UK, have said they are ready to distribute excess supplies, but often without setting a timeline.

The US bought four doses per person, the EU seven and the UK more than eight, according to Duke University.

In a tweet posted after a meeting of G-7 health ministers last week, India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged support for the mantra of ‘leaving no one behind’.

MM. Modi and Ramaphosa also intend to use the summit to push for a waiver of the intellectual property underlying the Covid-19 vaccines. This initiative won the support of the United States, but not of other members of the G-7.

The summit is “an important opportunity to seek broader support for the struggle we are waging alongside India and more than 100 other countries,” Ramaphosa wrote in a weekly bulletin published on Monday.

But at this week’s summit, those demands could face pressing national issues in many G-7 countries. Governments are rushing to vaccinate as many of their citizens as possible before the summer recess, when travel rules are expected to ease. There is also pressure to vaccinate adolescents before the start of the new school year in September, to allow for in-person learning.

New, more contagious variants, including a find in India that is now increasing infections in the UK, put reopening plans at risk and prompt governments to hold on to doses for potential booster shots. This could leave developing countries with vaccines to cover 10% of their population this year, according to IMF analysis.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has come under fire for the country’s slow start to deployment earlier this year. Japan has fully immunized just over 3% of its citizens, according to Our World in Data, a project based at the University of Oxford.

The vaccine shortage has made it difficult for developing countries to put in place the infrastructure and public education campaigns necessary for vaccines to be armed, Aylward said.

Some African countries are now considering extending the interval between the first and second dose of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC to 16 weeks from the recommended 12, a strategy that has not been tested in clinical trials. Others prepare to replace second dose with another vaccine, including a much more expensive vaccine from Pfizer Inc.

or Johnson & Johnson‘s

single dose vaccine.

Meanwhile, some poorer countries, like Pakistan, have instead requested vaccines from China, which is not a member of the G-7.

Write to Saeed Shah at [email protected] and Gabriele Steinhauser at [email protected]

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