Friday June 11th 2021
“Failure if that’s all”
G7 wants to donate a billion vaccine doses
The seven richest industrialized countries – including Great Britain, Germany and the USA – want to help poorer countries with a billion vaccine doses. After all, according to US President Biden, the whole world must be vaccinated in the fight against Covid-19. But there is already criticism of the crowd.
In the fight against the corona pandemic, the G7 group of western economic powers wants to help poorer countries with one billion vaccine doses. The British government announced on the night that this should be possible through both distribution and financing of vaccine. The heads of state and government also want to work out a plan to expand vaccine production. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hosting the three-day G7 summit this year, which begins this afternoon in Cornwall, south-west England. For the first time in two years, the heads of state and government of the economically strong western democracies are meeting again in person – albeit under strict precautionary measures because of Covid-19.
The group of seven (G7) includes the USA, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy and Japan. For US President Joe Biden, it is the first major international summit for which he is taking his first trip abroad since taking office. Chancellor Angela Merkel is only arriving today. For them it will be the 15th and final G7 summit.
The G7 countries want to join forces at the summit to fight the pandemic and better equip the world for future virus outbreaks. “Global solutions are required”, is the draft of a “Health Declaration from Carbis Bay”. In it, the heads of state and government commit themselves to “strengthen the collective defenses in order to better prevent future pandemics, to detect them, to react to them and to recover from them through effective multilateral action and a strengthened global health system”.
“We do this to save lives”
Biden underlined that the pandemic has not yet been defeated. “I want to make it clear that this is not the end of our efforts to fight Covid-19 and vaccinate the world,” he said on Thursday evening. “Tomorrow the G7 countries will announce the full extent of our commitment.” For the United States, shortly before the summit, Biden pledged a new donation of 500 million vaccine doses to 92 poorer countries and the African Union. They should be delivered by June next year at the latest and distributed with the help of the international vaccine initiative Covax. “Our vaccine donations do not include pressure for favors or possible concessions. We do this to save lives. To end this pandemic,” Biden said. “This US contribution is the basis for further coordinated efforts to vaccinate the world.”
For the UK, Prime Minister and Summit host Boris Johnson has announced that his country will contribute 100 million doses of vaccine from its surplus, most of it through the Covax vaccine initiative. Britain had so stocked up on vaccine that it could vaccinate its population multiple times. So far, the country has hardly exported any vaccines – that has provoked sharp criticism. “Because of the successful UK vaccination program, we are now able to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them,” Johnson said.
How much Germany could contribute to the donation of a billion vaccine doses is still open. Merkel announced in May that she would donate 30 million cans to Covax by the end of the year. At the same time, she pointed out that Germany also financially supported the program with more than one billion euros. This money could be converted into vaccination doses for the billion-euro donation from the G7. In any case, the federal government did not promise any additional contributions before the summit. A lot has already been done and “one of the big supporters”, it said from government circles.
G7 disagreed on the revocation of patent protection
Development organizations have criticized the plans as insufficient. “Immediate distribution of vaccination doses is urgently needed at the moment and the billion vaccine doses are therefore welcome,” said Jörn Kalinski from Oxfam. But if that is all, “it must be counted as a failure”. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers eleven billion vaccine doses to be necessary – or at least eight billion to vaccinate 80 percent of the population in countries with low and middle incomes for herd immunity. They also called for patent protection for vaccines to be lifted, for vaccine production technology to be passed on, and for investments in regional production worldwide.
There is no consensus within the G7 on the revocation of patent protection. The USA, many other states and development organizations are calling for this. French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would be putting a proposal on the table together with South Africa at the G7 summit in order to work on a temporary and geographically limited exception. Chancellor Merkel and the EU Commission spoke out again against a suspension. In government circles in Berlin it was said that the Chancellor did not believe that a release would be helpful and that patent protection was the problem. Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller spoke out in the “Augsburger Allgemeine” for the establishment of an African vaccine production. “That helps more than simply releasing patents, because it doesn’t produce a single additional dose of vaccine.”
The organizations Oxfam, World Vision or One called on Chancellor Merkel to follow the example of Macron, Biden as well as India and South Africa and to declare their support for a temporary release of the patents. “Charities will not resolve the colossal structural crisis in global vaccine supplies,” said Kalinski. “The G7 needs to break the monopolies of some pharmaceutical companies and insist that qualified manufacturers around the world can ramp up production.” The lives of millions of people should “never depend on the uncertain benevolence of rich nations and for-profit pharmaceutical companies.”
Merkel’s security guard in quarantine
Critics of a release argue that the obstacle is not the patents, but production capacities, knowledge and raw material supplies. EU Council President Charles Michel said: “A patent suspension may sound good, but it is not a silver bullet.” He pointed out that more than 270 million doses of vaccine had already been exported from the EU. In addition, the EU is the biggest supporter of the Covax initiative for fair vaccine distribution. With more than 2.8 billion euros, at least 100 million doses of vaccine would be donated by the end of the year.
That the summit carries risks in pandemic times became clear even before the start. Despite all protective measures, a corona outbreak occurred in a hotel that housed two Merkel’s security guards. A security guard has gone into quarantine as a precaution. According to information from London and Berlin, this will have no effect on Merkel’s arrival.
In addition to the fight against the pandemic, the G7 summit in the southwestern English seaside resort of Carbis Bay will focus on climate protection and dealing with Russia and China until Sunday. After the dispute about his predecessor Donald Trump’s going it alone, Biden is again forging alliances with allies and pursuing a fresh start in the democratic community of values - also in order to form an antipole to Russia and China. Like-minded democratic states such as South Korea, South Africa, Australia and India are invited to the summit as guests.