G7 leaders promise fair vaccine distribution around the world

21/02/2021

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers have promised to immunise the world’s neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a UN-backed vaccine distribution effort.

But the leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say exactly how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness.”

But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”

After their first meeting of the year, held remotely because of the pandemic, the leaders said they would accelerate global vaccine development and deployment” and support “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” and treatments for Covid-19. They cited a collective $7.5 billion from the G7 to UN-backed Covid-19 efforts.

“This is a global pandemic, and it’s no use one country being far ahead of another," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he opened the virtual summit with the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. The UK holds the G7 presidency this year.

“We’ve got to move together,” Johnson said, speaking from the prime minister's 10 Downing St residence to the other leaders in their far-flung offices. “So, one of the things that I know that colleagues will be wanting to do is to ensure that we distribute vaccines at cost around the world.”

G7 leaders are eager to avoid looking greedy, and don't want to cede the terrain of vaccine diplomacy to less democratic but faster-moving countries such as China and Russia.

Johnson, whose country has reported almost 120,000 virus-related deaths, promised to give “the majority of any future surplus vaccines” to the UN-backed Covax effort to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable people.

But Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said it was “difficult to say with any kind of certainty” when or how much Britain could donate.

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a firmer target, saying Europe and the US should allocate up to 5 percent of their current Covid-19 vaccine supplies to the poorest countries quickly.

“This is worth an enormous amount. It is worth our credibility,” Macron said after the meeting,

“If we can do this, then the West will have a presence” in African countries, he said. If not, those countries will turn to Chinese and Russian vaccines and “the power of the West will ... not be a reality.”

Macron's office said France was ready to hand over 5 percent of its doses but would not give exact numbers or a date.

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