16 Juni 2021 | Wirtschaft

G7 slammed for failing on vaccine plan

Outgoing UN aid chief Mark Lowcock says “sporadic, small-scale, charitable handouts” by rich countries won't end the Covid-19 pandemic.

They took a small step - at that very, very nice resort in Cornwall … Mark Lowcock, Outgoing aid chief: UN

Michelle Nichols - Outgoing UN aid chief Mark Lowcock slammed the Group of Seven wealthy nations this for failing to come up with a plan to vaccinate the world against Covid-19, describing the G7 pledge to provide 1 billion doses over the next year as a "small step".

"These sporadic, small-scale, charitable handouts from rich countries to poor countries is not a serious plan and it will not bring the pandemic to an end," Lowcock, who steps down on Friday, told Reuters on Monday. "The G7, essentially, completely failed to show the necessary urgency."

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada met in Cornwall, England over the weekend and also agreed to work with the private sector, the Group of 20 industrialised nations and other countries to increase the vaccine contribution over months to come.

‘DON’T KID YOURSELVES’

"They took a small step - at that very, very nice resort in Cornwall - but they shouldn't kid themselves it's more than a small step and they have still have a lot to do," Lowcock said.

"What the world needed from the G7 was a plan to vaccinate the world. And what we got was a plan to vaccinate about 10% of the population of low and middle income countries, maybe by a year from now or the second half of next year," he said.

In May, the International Monetary Fund unveiled a US$50 billion proposal to end the Covid-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60% by the first half of 2022.

"That is the deal of the century," said Lowcock, adding that the G7 could also have done a lot more to provide vital supplies - such as oxygen ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment - to countries who are going to have to wait longer for vaccines.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Friday urged world leaders to act with more urgency, warning that if developing countries were not vaccinated quickly, the virus would continue to mutate and could become immune to inoculation.

LIMITED IMPACT

The G7 plan to donate a billion vaccine doses to poorer countries will have limited impact because it includes some previous pledges, according to some experts.

The pledge does not represent entirely new resources, and the donation is far short of the five billion to six billion shots needed by poorer nations. Moreover, the plan does not address distribution gaps that could make it difficult to deliver doses.

But experts said it is still a much-needed boost to Covax, which has so far only distributed 83 million shots worldwide.

Covax has struggled to secure deliveries as wealthy nations reserve enough shots to vaccinate their populations several times over.

"It's going to rescue Covax from its pretty dire predicament right now, so it's a very significant step," said Stephen Morrison, the director of the Global Health Policy Centre at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

FIGURES

The United Kingdom's 100 million dose pledge is "entirely new" according to a spokesperson. But the European Union's 100 million dose commitment was promised during a summit in May, and the US commitment partially replaces earlier promises to fund Covax directly.

The United States has already donated US$2 billion to Covax, according to a White House official. In February, the Biden administration pledged US$2 billion more. But that second US$2 billion will now fund the purchase of the Pfizer doses, along with US$1.5 billion in additional funds, according to the official.

Even if the shots are acquired and shipped, they risk overwhelming developing countries' limited distribution infrastructure, especially if many are delivered together late this year.

The World Bank extended a US$12 billion line of credit for developing countries to build out vaccine distribution infrastructure, but governments have drawn down only about US$3 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

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