WHO urges G7 to step up and fight Covid-19

WHO chief says crisis cannot be resolved worldwide if the G7 does not take action

FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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The World Health Organisation on Monday urged G7 nations to fund the global Covid-19 recovery, saying the crisis cannot be resolved worldwide if they do not step up.

The WHO said the group of seven industrial powers had the ability to fund the vaccines, tests and treatments needed to conquer the pandemic and knock down the barriers blocking faster production.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the G7 to take decisive action at its three-day summit starting on June 11, being hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cornwall, south-west England.

"The G7 countries are the world's economic and political leaders," Dr Tedros said. "They are also home to many of the world's vaccine producers.

"We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of these countries."

He was supported up by former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who said the pandemic was becoming a "man-made catastrophe".

The Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator programme for finding, developing and distributing coronavirus vaccines, tests and therapeutics, is $19 billion short of its $22bn target this year.

And a further $35bn to $45bn will be needed next year to ensure most adults around the world are immunised.

Mr Brown, who chaired the wider G20 in 2009 as it plotted its way out of the global financial crisis, called for immediate decisive action from world leaders.

"I say to the G7, you have the power and the ability to pay for nearly two thirds of the costs and secure a historic breakthrough by agreeing to an equitable burden-sharing formula," he said.

Mr Brown said that based on national income, wealth and benefits from the resumption of trade, the US would pay 27 per cent of the cost; Europe 23 per cent; Japan 6 per cent; Britain 5 per cent; and Canada – plus South Korea and Australia, which will also attend the G7 summit – 2 per cent each.

Mr Brown said he detected a change in Washington's attitude in recent days towards vaccine production licensing agreements and temporary waivers to intellectual property rights, which would increase production.

Almost 1.2 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have so far been injected worldwide, AFP estimated.

But only 0.2 per cent of them have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to 9 per cent of the global population.

And the Covax global vaccine-sharing programme has largely been pushed out of the market by rich countries striking their own deals with makers.

Its main supplier is the Serum Institute of India, which is producing Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

But increased demand for doses in India, where the pandemic is raging, has interrupted Covax supplies.

Bruce Aylward, the WHO lead on Covax, said that had so far deprived the programme of about 100 million doses, and it still had no firm date for when the institute would resume deliveries.

Meanwhile the WHO's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said the additional vaccine doses going to India would not slow the outbreak there immediately.

This "is not going to come down by vaccination", the Indian clinical scientist said.

Dr Swaminathan said it took time for vaccinations to be distributed and then take effect.

Dr Tedros said more new Covid-19 cases were reported in the past two weeks than during the first six months of the pandemic, most of them from India and Brazil.

Covax announced on Monday that it had struck a deal to buy 500 million doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, with 34 million doses in the final three months of 2021 and another 466 million next year.

Under Covax, the cost of vaccines for the 92 poorest participating economies is covered by donors.

Covax has so far shipped more than 49 million Covid-19 vaccine doses worldwide.

It has been urging wealthy countries to donate excess doses to cover supply shortages.

Sweden on Monday donated one million AstraZeneca doses, which will help people in Africa to receive their second shot.

The US has said it will share 60 million AstraZeneca doses, but has not confirmed when or whether they will be sent through Covax.