This afternoon, G7 leaders announced their collective response to tackling COVID-19 globally in their Leaders’ Communique, pledging one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by the end of next year, including 100 million from the UK.
Whilst any steps to donate vaccines are welcome, today’s announcements are a fraction of what is needed and the delivery is far too slow. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 11 billion doses need to be administered worldwide to end the pandemic. Additionally, the COVAX facility is currently 190 million vaccines short, preventing the vaccination of high-risk groups and healthcare workers in LMICs. Furthermore, we note with concern the failure of the G7 leaders to commit to removing intellectual property barriers in their efforts towards global access to vaccines.
Despite welcome recognition of the important role of health systems and the health workforce underpinning the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout, the G7 leaders’ communique fails to provide strategic leadership or concrete commitments for implementation, and risks being little more than empty rhetoric.
Katie Husselby, Coordinator at Action for Global Health, said: “Today’s announcements are too little, too slow and lacking in ambition. As health workers and vulnerable groups globally continue to go without vaccines, and COVID-19 exacerbates weaknesses in health systems and disrupts essential health services. This weekend was a critical moment for the UK to leverage substantial action to improve global health.
If the UK truly wishes to create a healthier world, they must use the remainder of their presidency to significantly scale-up action and financing for the COVID-19 response and strengthen health systems globally.”
Jo Rea, Director of Advocacy at UNICEF UK, said: “This G7 commitment is the beginning of the action required to end this pandemic. However, the urgent need to immediately share more vaccines with the world remains. We need a clear plan to address the shortfall in vaccine supply that includes a rapid acceleration of dose sharing in the next three months to ensure millions of vaccines get to the people in countries who need them the most.”
Edwin Ikhuoria, Executive Director for Africa at The ONE Campaign, said: “Leaders arrived at the summit with a global crisis raging around us. While there has been some progress, the hard truth is that they leave Cornwall having failed to take the real action needed to end the pandemic and kickstart the global recovery. Throughout the summit we have heard strong words from the leaders but without the new investment to make their ambitions a reality.
Crucially, the failure to get life-saving vaccines to the whole planet as fast as possible, means this was not the historic moment that people around the world were hoping for and leaves us little closer to ending the pandemic. As a result, billions of people, especially those living in the most vulnerable countries, are left dangerously exposed and still waiting for a real plan to lead the world out of this crisis.”
Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of ONE, said: “Post-match analysis of the G7 summit shows an underwhelming performance by the UK this weekend. What’s worse is that this was entirely avoidable. By cutting UK Aid – making us the fifth largest donor in the G7 – the Prime Minister tied his own hands behind his back.
This was the moment to show historic global leadership on the global crises we face, not just host a good party on the beach. Instead it’s been overshadowed by a row with his backbenchers about the aid cuts, and wholly inadequate commitments to tackle the pandemic.
The lack of goals scored in Carbis Bay means the pandemic will rage on. But it’s not too late, and there are still ways to make progress. We need faster and more ambitious dose sharing, new funding to tackle the pandemic, and new money for education ahead of the GPE Summit in July. The UK is only at half-time in its Presidency – the second half must be the moment to score the goals.”
For more information on the G7 and global health, visit the news and views section.