The call came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries would agree to provide at least 1 billion doses of the vaccine to the poorest countries. The G-7 leaders, who are holding their annual meeting this weekend in Cornwall, in the south-west of England, continue to debate other forms of help to get life-saving vaccines in the guns.

While almost half of the combined population of the G-7 countries have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the global figure is less than 13%. In Africa, it is only 2.2%.

Rich countries must act quickly not only out of altruism but to protect their own citizens, as the virus will continue to mutate as long as it is allowed to spread unchecked, resulting in potentially more dangerous variants, said Lily Caprani, chief of staff. COVID- 19 vaccine advocacy for UNICEF.

“(This) requires political will and urgent action now,” Caprani told The Associated Press. “So I think we should all be urging our leaders to do it, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do, and it’s the only way out.”

But economists at the International Monetary Fund recently estimated that it would cost $ 50 billion to vaccinate 60% of the world’s population by the middle of next year, and that achieving that goal would generate $ 9 trillion. additional economic output by 2025.

Those who call on richer countries to do more to make vaccines available worldwide argue that it would be a worthwhile investment in human capital.

“If we do this, and everyone says it’s the deal of the century, about 60% of those resources have to come from the rich G-7 countries,” said Robert Yates, director of the global health program at Chatham House, a London-based public policy think tank.

Countries like the United States and Britain secured the supply of several COVID-19 vaccines while they were still in development, hoping to secure shipments for all successful applicants. This left them with enough doses to inoculate their entire population two or three times after regulators approved a certain number of shots.

They are now under pressure to immediately provide vaccines to low-income countries and not wait until they have vaccinated the youngest age groups in their own countries. COVID-19 poses the greatest risk to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who account for the vast majority of people who die from the disease.

Ahead of the G-7 meeting, the IMF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization said the group’s top priority should be to end the pandemic and ensure recovery. global economy.

“The current approach to COVID-19 vaccination – using limited stocks of vaccines to protect low-risk populations in a handful of countries while low- and middle-income economies wait indefinitely for doses – has no effect. meaning no one, ”World Bank President David Malpass wrote last month. “A successful global immunization effort must be equitable. “

But vaccines alone are not enough to get the job done.

Fragile health systems in low-income countries need equipment, training and logistical support to be able to implement the kind of supercharged mass immunization programs that have been successful in Europe and North America.

The UK, for example, turned to its National Health Service for staff and requisitioned cathedrals, stadiums and museums as centers for mass vaccination. Over 60% of the UK population and almost 80% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

While infections, hospitalizations and deaths have all plunged with the success of Britain’s vaccination program, public health officials are still concerned about new variants that may prove to be more resistant to existing vaccines. The government recently banned most travel from India to slow the spread of the delta variant found there.

Epidemiologists say the best way to avoid potentially dangerous variants is to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable people as quickly as possible.

“Talking is cheap and talking won’t be enough,” said Jeevun Sandher, a former UK government economist who studies inequality at King’s College London. “A finely crafted communiqué with our ambitions and a commitment to global cooperation just isn’t going to achieve it. You absolutely have to see the checks. Take out those pens and start signing. ”

Developing countries are also calling on the United States, Britain and the European Union – where the most widely used vaccines have been developed – to relax patent protections and provide technical assistance so they can produce vaccines themselves.

The Biden administration has supported a temporary waiver of patent protections, saying “extraordinary times and circumstances call for extraordinary action.” But the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, opposed such a move, arguing that government aid to vaccine manufacturers and voluntary licensing deals are the best way to increase supply.

A decision on the matter will come from the World Trade Organization.

Campaigners argue that the technology should be transferred to developing countries so that they can produce COVID-19 vaccines and treatments on their own, reducing their dependence on manufacturing elsewhere.

Daphne Jayasinghe of the International Rescue Committee noted that the debate is taking place against the backdrop of the UK government’s decision to cut international aid spending, “which is profoundly affecting health services in countries where they are most needed. no longer needed.

“Promises to deliver surplus vaccines are certainly welcome … but they need to be accompanied by more action,” Jayasinghe said. “We would like to see other G-7 member states make similar commitments to share vaccines, but what has to go with that is the infrastructure and health services to deliver those vaccines.”


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