G7 leaders are meeting for their first in-person talks in nearly two years, with an expected pledge to donate one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world’s poorest countries.
The club of leading economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – say a joint approach is the world’s best chance for recovering from the global health crisis and tackling climate change.
As the summit opened at the seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, southwest England on Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told leaders the gathering was a chance to learn lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and ensure they do not repeat any errors.
“We need to make sure that we now allow our economies to recover,” he said, adding that a more equitable future for the world was essential.
“We need to make sure that when we recover, we level up and we build back better. We have a huge opportunity to do that as G7,” he added.
But regarding the plan to donate vaccines, campaigners said the pledge – which includes 500 million US doses and 100 million from the UK – does not go far enough.
“If the best G7 leaders can manage is to donate one billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure,” Oxfam’s health policy manager Anna Marriott said, insisting the world needs 11 billion doses instead as she called for a global waiver on patent protections for vaccines.
“Charity is not going to fix the colossal vaccine supply crisis,” she said. “The G7 should break the pharmaceutical monopolies and insist that the vaccine science and know-how is shared with qualified manufacturers around the world.
“Presidents Biden and Macron have supported a waiver on the intellectual property behind COVID vaccines – the other G7 nations should follow their lead. The lives of millions of people in developing countries should never be dependent on the goodwill of rich nations and profit-hungry pharmaceutical corporations.”
Alex Harris, director of government relations at Wellcome, a London-based science and health charitable foundation, said: “The new US and UK commitments are a step in the right direction, but they don’t go far enough, fast enough.
“What the world needs is vaccines now, not later this year. At this historic moment, the G7 must show the political leadership our crisis demands … We urge G7 leaders to raise their ambition.