Pharma firms, G20 leaders pledge vaccines for poorer nations

By: AFP      Published: 08:26 PM, 21 May, 2021
Pharma firms, G20 leaders pledge vaccines for poorer nations

Coronavirus vaccine producers promised billions of doses for poor countries at a G20 health summit Friday, where leaders vowed to expand access to jabs as the only way to end the pandemic.

The bosses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson announced they would supply around 3.5 billion vaccine doses at cost or discount to low- and middle-income countries this year and next.

Meanwhile the European Union pledged to donate 100 million doses and invest in regional manufacturing hubs in Africa to reduce the continent's reliance on imports.

The summit was billed as an attempt to learn lessons from the pandemic, which has killed more than 3.4 million people globally since in emerged in late 2019. 

But while many rich countries are enjoying a slowdown in infections thanks to vaccination drives, many others are still battling fresh surges. 

"As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together," Draghi told the summit.

"We must vaccinate the world -- and do it fast."

In Washington, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report emphasised the same message, with a $50-billion (41-billion euro) plan to end the pandemic focused heavily on expanding vaccines.

It noted that as of last month, less than two percent of people in Africa had been vaccinated while more than 40 percent of the population in the United States and more than 20 percent in Europe had received at least one dose.

Vaccine technologies

The summit will end with a "Rome declaration" on the guidelines to avoid another pandemic, from investment in global healthcare systems, improved data sharing and surveillance of human and animal diseases.

But it is not expected to endorse the contentious idea of a temporary global waiver on patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

Instead, the leaders will advocate the use of other tools such as voluntary licensing agreements and technology transfers, EU officials said.

India and South Africa have for months led calls to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on vaccines to boost production, a position recently backed by Washington but which has been met with scepticism in Brussels.

In a video message, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated Beijing's support for a waiver and urged the World Trade Organization and other international institutions to make an "early decision".

"China supports its vaccine companies in transferring technologies to other developing countries and carrying out joint production with them," he added.