GENEVA – The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines at the end of 2020 has raised hopes that the end of the pandemic is approaching. When the leaders of the G7, North America, Europe and Japan meet for a virtual assembly on February 19, their top priority will be to consider how to achieve this goal.
While this is not the first time that world leaders have sought to address the pandemic, I welcome the fact that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the current G7 chairman, has organized this summit on vaccination theme. Having represented the European Union in these assemblies for ten years, I know the extent to which they have the potential to create enthusiasm for finding solutions.
With the new US President Joe Biden reconnecting with the multilateral spirit of the United States, this G7 meeting offers real hope that it will become the real inflection point for overcome the crisis of Covid-19. Moreover, a solution is already on the table, with vaccines ready to be distributed to the poorest countries in the world.
It is now clear that vaccines are having a bigger impact on this pandemic than any fiscal or monetary incentive, not only in terms of lives saved and people protected, but also in paving the way for it. economic recovery. This is because as long as the coronavirus is circulating, the re-infection will continue and initiatives to resume trade, travel and commerce will stall.
But the potential impact of vaccines depends entirely on a quick, fair and equitable access for citizens of all countries. So, it is more than ever necessary to appeal to the global solidarity in support of the Global Access Mechanism for the Covid-19 Vaccine (Covax), the international initiative that aims to distribute vaccines in all regions of the world.
The Covax mechanism represents the only viable method to achieve international economic recovery and avoid a divide in the global distribution of immunization. With the participation of 190 countries, the initiative has already provided the initial administration of 2.3 billion doses vaccine against Covid-19 for 2021. Next week, the vaccination campaign plans to administer 1.3 billion doses to citizens of 92 low-income countries that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Given the current constraints of global supply, the Covax mechanism plans to administer approximately 120 million doses by the end of March and 340 millions by the end of the first half of 2021. This means that even in a context of supply restriction, Covax remains able to meet its initial vaccination schedule.
This is good news, but delays in receiving the vaccine remain problematic —And the world could act even faster. In particular, high-income countries can help accelerate the equitable distribution of vaccines by donating the excess doses they have to the Covax mechanism. French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have already made commitments in this regard. We must also salute the generosity of donors from the G7, the United Kingdom and the United States and Japan. And Germany, under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has shown political courage in this dilemma both within the European Union and globally.
By working together instead of negotiating bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies, states are able to reduce immediate pressure on the world supply of new doses. This will give priority to vaccinating those who need it most and avoid repeating what happened with the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009, when the vaccines ended up in the hands of the highest bidders.
Nationalist vaccine measures, whatever the form, must end. By limiting the already tight global supply, such practices mean that those who need them most have even less access to doses, increasing the risk by letting the virus continue to spread and mutate around the world. Global vaccine solidarity is the only solution.
The EU, represented at the G7 summit by the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, is a perfect example. Like all buyers in a limited supply market, the EU has experienced delays in obtaining vaccines and has been criticized for slow supply to member states. But the Union model based on solidarity works, because, without it, countries would have outbid to get their hands on the doses. This would have ended in costly chaos, most likely prolonging the pandemic and creating a worrying rupture in Europe.
This is also true elsewhere in the world, which justifies the current need for international solidarity to be able to intervene through Covax. This week, the G7 has the opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership in making the success of this initiative a top priority. And the G20, under the presidency of Italy, must continue these efforts. I have no doubts that the new Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, who has settled many crises in his career, will show the high level of vision we need to fight the global Covid-19 crisis.
The immense pressure that states are under to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines for all their citizens, adopting a global orientation is arguably not the easiest task nor the most popular choice. However, ensure rapid and fair access vaccines to citizens of all countries is not only a moral consideration, but also offers the fastest way to end the crisis and put our economies back on track for recovery.
Translated from English by Pierre Castegnier
© Project Syndicate 1995–2021