G7: World leaders promise one billion Covid vaccine doses for poorer nations

Leaders of the major industrial nations have pledged one billion Covid vaccine doses to poor countries as a “big step towards vaccinating the world”, Boris Johnson has said.

At the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall, the PM said countries were rejecting “nationalistic approaches”.

He said vaccinating the world would show the benefits of the G7’s democratic values.

There was also a pledge to wipe out their contribution to climate change.

After the first meeting of world leaders in two years, Mr Johnson said “the world was looking to us to reject some of the selfish, nationalistic approaches that marred the initial global response to the pandemic and to channel all our diplomatic, economic and scientific might to defeating Covid for good”.

He said the G7 leaders had pledged to supply the vaccines to poor countries either directly or through the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme – including 100 million from the UK.

Mr Johnson rejected suggestions the donation a moral failure by the G7 as it was not enough to cover the needs of poorer countries.

He referred to the the UK’s involvement in the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Already of the 1.5 billion vaccines that have been distributed around the world, I think that people in this country should be very proud that half a billion of them are as a result of the actions taken by the UK government in doing that deal with the Oxford scientists and AstraZeneca to distribute it at cost,” he said.

He added that “we are going flat out and we are producing vaccines as fast as we can, and distributing them as fast as we can”.

The target to vaccinate the world by the end of next year would be met “very largely thanks to the efforts of the countries who have come here today”, Mr Johnson said.

line

Analysis box by Michelle Roberts, health editor

Vaccines provide a route out the pandemic, but only if they are distributed equitably around the globe based on need.

Currently, many richer nations have good access to doses for mass immunisation of their citizens, while some developing countries are yet to receive any.

The UK has bought enough vaccine to immunise its entire population several times over.

G7 nations, including the UK, have agreed to step up production and donate a billion doses, but that will take time.

The ambition is to vaccinate “the world” by the end of 2022.

The World Health Organization estimates at least 11 billion doses are needed to stand a chance of beating the virus, which is why critics say the G7 summit will go down as an unforgivable moral failure.

line

Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion that patents for vaccines should be waived in order to boost global supply, something which the US backed last month.

He said he wanted to protect “incentives for innovation” while building up manufacturing capacity, especially in Africa.

A draft of the communique due to be issued by the summit and seen by the BBC calls for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened” investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

US President Joe Biden has previously said the US intelligence community is split on whether coronavirus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a lab accident – a theory rejected by China.

Mr Johnson said “the advice that we’ve had is it doesn’t look as though this particular disease of zoonotic origin came from a lab”, but he added: “Clearly anybody sensible would want to keep an open mind about that”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the international community needed clarity about the origins of the virus but said it was up to the WHO to investigate.