A Group of Seven plan to donate one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries lacks ambition, is far too slow and shows Western leaders are not yet on top of tackling the worst public health crisis in a century, campaigners have said.
The head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has welcomed the move but added more was needed, warning that if people in developing countries were not inoculated quickly, the coronavirus could mutate further and become resistant to the new vaccines.
“We need more than that,” said Guterres of the G7 plan. “We need a global vaccination plan. We need to act with a logic, with a sense of urgency, and with the priorities of a war economy, and we are still far from getting that.”
US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had used the G7 summit in England to announce the donation of 500 million and 100 million vaccines respectively for the world’s poorest nations.
Canada is expected to commit to sharing up to 100 million doses and other pledges may follow after Johnson urged G7 leaders to help inoculate the world’s nearly eight billion people against the coronavirus by the end of 2022.
But health and anti-poverty campaigners said that, while donations were a step in the right direction, Western leaders had failed to grasp that exceptional efforts were needed to beat the virus.
Help with distribution was also necessary, they said.
Former British PM Gordon Brown, who has been pushing for richer countries to share more of the cost of vaccinating developing countries, said the G7 pledges were more akin to “passing round the begging bowl” than a real solution.
“It’s a catastrophic failure if we can’t go away in the next week or two … with a plan that actually rids the world of COVID now we’ve got a vaccine,” Brown told Reuters news agency.
COVID-19 has ripped through the global economy, with more than 175 million infections reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in late 2019.
Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
As most people need two vaccine doses, and possibly booster shots to tackle emerging variants, charity Oxfam said the world would need 11 billion doses to end the pandemic. It also called on G7 leaders to support a waiver on the intellectual property behind the vaccines.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said intellectual property rights should not hinder access to vaccines during a pandemic, appearing to back Biden on the subject.