The UK will donate 100 million excess doses of coronavirus vaccine over the next year to low-income countries as part of at least 1 billion doses owed by the G7.
The United States has pledged to purchase 500 million Pfizer vaccines at a cost of $ 3 billion for distribution in 100 of the poorest countries, of which 200 million will be distributed this year, in addition to releasing 80 million of its surplus d ‘by the end of June.
But a group of activists, including former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said the G7 package did not address the structural problems low-income countries face in ensuring a steady supply of vaccines, adding that these countries had need 12 billion vaccines, at a cost of 50 billion dollars. .
The World Health Organization said infections had increased in the past three weeks in Africa. “Forty-seven of the 54 African countries – nearly 90% – are expected to miss the September target of immunizing 10% of their population unless Africa receives an additional 225 million doses,” he said. “At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for less than 1% of the more than 2.1 billion doses administered worldwide. Only 2% of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received a dose and only 9.4 million Africans are fully immunized.
Boris Johnson first pledged in February that the UK would give the majority of its surplus vaccines to poor countries, and Thursday’s announcement provided some details.
The UK will donate 5 million doses by the end of September, starting in the coming weeks. An additional 95 million doses will be delivered over the next 12 months, of which 25 million by the end of 2021. Eighty percent of the UK’s 100 million doses will go to Covax, the international clearinghouse headed by the UN for vaccines for the poorest countries, and the rest will be shared bilaterally with countries selected by the UK.
The UK believes it can afford to drop 5 million doses in the coming weeks without delaying the completion of its own vaccination program. He calculated that the 100 million donation always leaves a buffer in the event of new tensions or bottlenecks. He points out that he was Covax’s fourth donor last year, and 96% of the doses he donated were Oxford / AstraZeneca, which he helped fund development.
Johnson said: “Due to the success of the UK vaccination program, we are now able to share some of our excess doses with those who need them. In doing so, we will take a giant step towards defeating this pandemic for good. “
UK officials said the cost of transferring vaccines would be treated as overseas development aid but would not come from the existing ODA budget, currently reduced to 0.5% of UK national income. This means that the additional unpaid cost will represent additional aid expenditure in the UK.
Brown, speaking alongside Nita Deerpalsing of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said the G7 should “ensure that 11 billion vaccines, enough vaccines to cover the entire world, will be available within months , and that the G7 will ensure that protection is provided to all. by paying their fair share of the $ 50 billion cost of vaccines, tests, and protective gear that the world urgently needs. “
Save the Children policy director Kirsty McNeill called the UK contribution a ‘good start’ but added: ‘It is really on funding that the summit will be judged and we need a 24 hour journey since the Prime Minister to negotiate a global price and funded a roadmap to vaccinate the world and increase supply.
Thursday, on the eve of the G7 summit, Joe Biden confirmed his intention to buy 500 million doses and declared that the United States would be “the vaccine arsenal of the world”. The US President said in Cornwall: “It is our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as possible. When we see people suffering and suffering all over the world, we seek to help them in any way we can. “
French President Emmanuel Macron said pharmaceutical companies should donate 10% of their vaccines, and set a target of “60% of Africans vaccinated by the end of the first quarter of 2022”.
Western leaders have been reluctant to send surplus vaccines overseas, insisting that they must first protect their own populations, but the balance of the argument has gradually shifted as stocks have increased.
The UK has joined the EU in resisting a call led by South Africa and now backed by France and the US for a mandatory vaccine patent waiver. He fears that such a waiver will deter pharmaceutical companies from investing in research and development.
Instead, the UK is asking the G7 to encourage pharmaceutical companies to adopt the Oxford / AstraZeneca model of providing vaccines at cost for the duration of the pandemic. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have already pledged to share 1.3 billion nonprofit doses with developing countries. On this model, pharmaceutical companies only begin to reap profits once the initial pandemic has been brought under control.