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The G7 Must Act to Vaccinate the World

Summary:
The world’s richest countries are failing to champion the global cooperation needed to defeat the pandemic. At June’s G7 summit in the United Kingdom, leaders must agree on a financial plan to underpin international collaboration on COVID-19, starting with equitable access to vaccines. LONDON – “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe” is the defining mantra of the COVID-19 era. It captures a fundamental truth. Faced with a virus that recognizes no borders, no country is an island - and there is no substitute for international solidarity. Build Back the State Getty/Bettman  Is Stagflation Coming? Z. Wei/Getty

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The world’s richest countries are failing to champion the global cooperation needed to defeat the pandemic. At June’s G7 summit in the United Kingdom, leaders must agree on a financial plan to underpin international collaboration on COVID-19, starting with equitable access to vaccines.

LONDON – “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe” is the defining mantra of the COVID-19 era. It captures a fundamental truth. Faced with a virus that recognizes no borders, no country is an island - and there is no substitute for international solidarity.

The June G7 summit in the UK provides political leaders of the world’s richest countries an opportunity to demonstrate that solidarity. They should seize it by agreeing on a financial plan of action to underpin humanity’s battle with COVID-19, starting with equitable access to vaccines.

The development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines was a scientific triumph. New partnerships involving governments, businesses, philanthropists, and multilateral institutions tested, delivered, and began administering vaccines in record time. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a unique partnership between the World Health Organization and others, provides a multilateral framework for cooperation on diagnosis, treatments, and vaccines. The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, a key pillar in that partnership, has so far delivered a total of 40 million doses in over 100 countries.

Despite these achievements, vaccine inequality is widening by the day. With 16% of the world’s population, high-income countries account for over half of confirmed vaccine orders, or around 4.6 billion doses – enough to vaccinate their populations several times over in some cases. With twice the population share, the poorest developing countries have half the number of confirmed orders. Current supplies to Sub-Saharan Africa cover less than 1% of the population. As wealthy countries immunize younger and healthier population groups, health workers in Mozambique, Nepal, and Bolivia are fighting the pandemic without protection – and lives are being lost.

The vaccine gap highlights a stark injustice. While G7 countries are on track to achieve 70% coverage by the end of 2021, some of the poorest countries will not reach that level before 2024 on current trends. This is ominously reminiscent of the initial response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, when Africa and other developing regions were left at the back of the queue for antiretroviral drugs that were widely available in rich countries. The lag in delivery cost some 12 million lives.

Leaving the world’s poor behind in the race to vaccinate against COVID-19 represents a catastrophic moral failure. It is also an act of devastating self-harm. As the coronavirus spreads and mutates across unimmunized populations, it will pose a public health threat to people everywhere – including in the richest countries. Moreover, the market disruption caused by low...

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