Of these, at least half to be delivered by the end of 2021
G7 leaders have pledged to share COVID-19 vaccine doses internationally, in support of global equitable access and to help end the acute phase of the pandemic. Building on the momentum of the G20 Global Health Summit hosted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President von der Leyen and the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit hosted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, G7 countries committed to share at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines directly, with the aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021, and reaffirmed their support for COVAX as “the primary route for providing vaccines to the poorest countries.”
COVAX partners welcome this commitment, along with continued support for exporting in significant proportions, promotion of voluntary licensing and not-for-profit global production.
Facing an urgent supply gap, COVAX is focussed on securing as many shared doses as possible immediately, as the third quarter of this year is when the gap between deliveries and countries’ ability to absorb doses will be the greatest. COVAX will work with the G7 and other countries that have stepped up to share doses as rapidly and equitably as possible. This will help address short-term supply constraints currently impacting the global response to COVID-19 and minimise the prospect of future-deadly variants.
In anticipation of the large volumes available through the COVAX facility deals portfolio later in the year, COVAX also urges multi-lateral development banks to urgently release funding to help countries prepare their health systems for a large-scale roll out of vaccines in the coming months.
“This is an important moment of global solidarity and a critical milestone in the push to ensure those most at risk everywhere, are protected. As we strive towards our goal of ending the acute phase of the pandemic, we look forward to work with countries to ensure these doses pledged are quickly turned into doses delivered,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance.
Adding to it, Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said, “This is a historic moment – as leaders of some of the wealthiest counties come together to ensure that all parts of the world have access to life-saving vaccines. “This pandemic has shown us that we cannot set national against international interests. With a disease like COVID-19, we have to ensure that we get it under control everywhere. There is still much to do to get vaccines in arms and ensure our R&D allows us to stay one step ahead of the virus. But, for today, we give pause and celebrate a watershed moment of political alignment and collaboration.”
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said, “We have reached a grim milestone in this pandemic. There are already more dead from COVID-19 in 2021 than in all of last year. Without urgent action, this devastation will continue. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us — children included. UNICEF thanks G7 member states for their significant pledges and continued support. However, much work remains to continue to ramp up both the amount and the pace of supply to the rest of the world, because when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, our best interests and our best natures align. This crisis will not be over until it is over for everyone.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, stressed, “Many other countries are now facing a surge in cases – and they are facing it without vaccines. We are in the race of our lives, but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line. We welcome the announcements about donations of vaccines and thank leaders. But we need more, and we need them faster.”
Over $16 billion is needed this year to fully fund the work of ACT-Accelerator, the global partnership of leading international health organisations which is mid-way through its 2020-21 funding need. In addition to vital vaccine research and development and procurement work, ACT-Accelerator needs funds to strengthen health systems and protect health workers administering the tools needed to end the pandemic; tests to detect and contain hotspots as well as identify new variants that will continue to appear; and treatments to save the lives of those who will continue to catch COVID-19 and suffer. There is an urgent need for treatments like oxygen which is seeing a surge in demand that is five times – and in countries such as India, 10 times – greater than the need before the pandemic.
The funding needed for the ACT-Accelerator will address challenges delivering products where they are most needed, help establish testing for 500 million people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by mid-2021 and help secure the necessary supply of oxygen as well as distribute 165 million doses of treatments including dexamethasone which can save lives of people critically ill with COVID.
Carl Bildt, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT Accelerator, said, “We welcome these commitments but there is still a significant funding gap that must be closed if we are to get the urgently-needed treatments, including oxygen, and tests, to low and lower-middle-income countries so we aren’t flying blind to where the virus is and how it’s changing. The time to act is now. We look to the G7 and G20 to fund the work of the ACT Accelerator, the global multi-lateral solution that can speed up an end to the pandemic. The world needs their political leadership because left to rage anywhere, the virus will remain a threat everywhere.”