- BBC World News
The challenge of getting more coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest countries is one of the topics for discussion at this Friday’s virtual G7 summit, coordinated by the United Kingdom.
But the French president, Emmanuel Macron, did not want to wait for it to publicize his latest proposal: the urgent delivery of 5% of the vaccines already in the hands of the European Union and the United States.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, will use the meeting to announce that the United Kingdom is committed to donate all leftover doses of the vaccination process once it is finished.
And to both initiatives is also added the imminent announcement by the president of the United States, Joe Biden, of a financing of US $ 4,000 million for Covax, the mechanism for the global acquisition and distribution of vaccines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Covax It is the main bet of developed countries in the global fight against the pandemic and it would also be through this mechanism that the United Kingdom would distribute its remaining doses.
But in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, however, Macron insisted on the need to act with a greater sense of urgency than what Covax allows.
“We are not talking about billions of doses immediately, or billions of euros: it is about distributing much more quickly from 4 to 5% of the doses we have“, explained the French president, for whom the measure would not make a difference for European vaccination campaigns.
“Every country should reserve a small amount of the doses it has to transfer tens of millions, but very quickly, for people on the ground to see,” he said.
Outperformed by Russia and China
Macron’s proposal starts from recognizing that the contrast between the millions of vaccines already being applied in developed countries and the slowness of the process in the developing world reflects an acceleration of global inequality that is unprecedented.
“It is also politically unsustainable, as it is paving the way for a war of influence around vaccines. You can see the strategy of China, and also the Russian strategy, “he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, has already pledged to reserve a $ 2 billion vaccine fund for the African continent, while offering Latin American and Caribbean countries a $ 1 billion loan to purchase them. .
And many developing countries, especially in Latin America, have also knocked on Russia’s doors to negotiate doses of its promising Sputnik V vaccine, and Moscow was quick to respond and offer its support.
In the region, for example, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela have already begun to apply the Russian vaccine, and Mexico announced that the first batch of Sputnik V vaccines will arrive this weekend.
Peru, for its part, is already immunizing its health personnel with doses of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm, which is also being used on the European continent, where Serbia has received more than a million doses of it.
In fact, according to Airfinity data, until this February 17 Russia and China had already sent 800 million doses to 41 different countries, Chile and Brazil also stand out, and the African Union announced this Friday that it had guaranteed 300 million doses of Sputnik V for the continent.
In contrast, Covax – which already has $ 6 billion in funding and expects to distribute 2 billion vaccines in the remainder of the year – is just beginning to distribute its own, in much smaller quantities.
And as the British newspaper The Guardian highlights, in addition to political will and direct distribution channels, Russia and China also have the advantage that their pharmaceutical companies are more willing to license their products for that vaccines are produced in other countries.
In contrast, the prioritization of Covax by Western countries has diminished their efforts, helping them to stand out above all as vaccine hoarders in the battle against the pandemic.
As the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, denounced on Wednesday, to date 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccines globally, while 130 countries have yet to receive a single dose.
And rich countries like the United Kingdom and Canada have ordered enough doses to vaccinate their populations more than once, although the British government has already promised to use its leftover vaccines to fight the pandemic globally and work to prevent similar situations from happening again. .
During the G7 meeting, Prime Minister Johnson will urge rich countries to commit to the goal of ensuring that new vaccines for future emerging diseases can be developed in a maximum period of 10 days.
And in an interview with the BBC, British Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs James Cleverly noted that the percentage of vaccines that would eventually be donated by the UK to Covax would be “a significantly higher percentage” than that proposed by Macron.
Cleverly – who also said that “unlike some countries”, the UK would not use the vaccine supply promise as “short-term diplomatic lever” – admitted however that it was difficult to specify when British vaccines would begin to be shared.
And decisions about when and how much to share of the surplus are expected to be made near the end of the local vaccination campaign, as ministers will need to take into account the supply chain and the possibility that booster shots will be needed in the fall.
“Our first duty is protect our own peopleThat is the first duty of all governments, “Cleverly explained.
Public health issue
The prioritization of the vaccination of its own citizens, as well as the commitment to Covax, also seem to govern the global strategy of the United States, much more willing to promise money than to share vaccines.
But Macron said that he hopes he can convince Biden of the benefits of his idea, which according to him already has the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The enemy of multilateralism right now … is slowness and inefficiency,” argued Macron.
“And it is not about vaccine diplomacy, or power games, it is a matter of public health,” he said, recalling that the later the vaccine reaches all corners of the planet, the more exposed we will all be to the appearance of new variants of the coronavirus immune to current vaccines.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.