The UK will donate 100 million surplus 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 promised to buy 500 million Pfizer vaccines at a cost of $ 3 billion to distribute in 100 poorer countries, with 200 million to be distributed this year, in addition to releasing 80 million of its surplus by the end of June.
But a group of activists, including former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said the G7 package did not address the structural problems low-income countries face in ensuring a regular supply of vaccines, adding that these countries needed 12 billion vaccines, at a cost of $ 50 billion. .
The World Health Organization said infections had increased in the past three weeks in Africa. “Forty-seven of the 54 countries in Africa, almost 90%, will not reach the September target of vaccinating 10% of their population unless Africa receives 225 million more doses,” he said. “With 32 million doses, Africa represents less than 1% of the more than 2.1 billion doses administered globally. Only 2% of the nearly 1.3 billion people on the continent have received a dose and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated. “
Boris Johnson first promised in February that the UK would deliver most of its surplus vaccines to poor countries, and Thursday’s announcement provided some of the details.
The UK will donate 5 million doses at the end of September, starting in the next few weeks. Another 95 million doses will be delivered over the next 12 months, including 25 million by the end of 2021. 80% of the UK’s 100 million doses will go to Covax, the UN-run international clearinghouse for vaccines. for the poorest countries, and the rest will be shared bilaterally with the countries selected by the UK.
The UK believes it can afford to forgo 5 million doses in the coming weeks without delaying the completion of its own vaccine program. It has been calculated that the 100 million donation still leaves a margin in case of new tensions or bottlenecks in the supply. He notes that he was Covax’s fourth-largest donor last year, and 96% of the doses he gave were Oxford / AstraZeneca, the development of which he helped fund.
Johnson said: “As a result of the success of the UK vaccine programs, we are now in a position to share some of our excess doses with those who need them. By doing so, we will take a massive step to defeat this pandemic forever. “
UK officials said the cost of transferring the vaccines would be treated as overseas development assistance, but would not come from the existing ODA budget, currently reduced to 0.5% of UK national income. This means that the additional cost not yet resolved will represent an additional UK aid expense.
Brown, speaking with Nita Deerpalsing of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said the G7 should “guarantee that 11 billion vaccines, enough vaccines to cover the whole world, will be available in months, and that the G7 will guarantee that protection is provided to all by paying their fair share of the $ 50 billion cost of the vaccines, tests and protective equipment that the world urgently needs. “
Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children’s policy director, described the British contribution as “a good start” but added: “It really depends on funding that the summit will be judged and we need a 24-hour trip from the prime minister to negotiate a cost. global and funded roadmap to vaccinate the world and increase supply. “
On Thursday, the eve of the G7 summit, Joe Biden confirmed his plan to buy 500 million doses, saying that the United States will be “the world’s vaccine arsenal.” The US President said in Cornwall: “It is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can. When we see people suffering and suffering in any part of the world, we seek to help in whatever way we can. “
French President Emmanuel Macron said pharmaceutical companies needed to donate 10% of their vaccines and set a target of “60% of vaccinated Africans by the end of the first quarter of 2022.”
Western leaders have been cautious about shipping surplus vaccines abroad, insisting that they must first protect their own populations, but the balance of the argument has gradually shifted as stocks have grown.
The UK has joined the EU to resist a call led by South Africa and now backed by France and the US for a mandatory exemption on vaccine patents. He fears that such an exemption would 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 during the pandemic. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have already pledged to share 1.3 billion doses without profit with developing countries. In this model, pharmaceutical companies only begin to accumulate profits once the initial pandemic has been brought under control.