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Vaccinating the World from Cornwall: The Pledging Begins

Tristen Naylor, G7 Research Group, and Alexandre El Ghaoui, London Politica
June 11, 2021

Today the G7 pledged to donate 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income and developing countries as part of its mission to end the pandemic by 2022. The United States has stated that it will donate 500 million doses, aiming to deliver 200 million in 2022 and 300 million in 2023. The United Kingdom has announced that it will donate 100 million, France on its end has promised 30 million, and Canada expected to announce a donation of 100 million on Sunday. The remaining G7 members have yet to outline their specific contributions. The EU announced a separate pledge at the end of May to donate 100 million doses to developing countries and invest $1.2 billion in African vaccine manufacturing facilities.

While United Nations secretary-general António Guterres welcomed the commitment, stating that "[the UN] couldn't imagine that this would materialize," others have been much more critical of the G7. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown declared, "I am afraid they have failed the first test even before they've had a weekend of talks because it looks more like passing the begging bowl round than a comprehensive plan to vaccinate the world." Oxfam's health policy manager Anana Marriot stated, "If the best G7 leaders can manage is to donate 1 billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure." The World Health Organization has calculated that the world needs approximately 11 billion doses due to the requirement for second shots and mutating variants, well above the 1 billion commitment made today.

Critics of the G7's pledge have stated that simply donating excess doses is not merely enough.

Relying on donations, they explain, is inefficient and unfair. Malawi had to burn approximately 20,000 expired COVID-19 vaccine doses only two weeks after receiving them. Rather, critics believe that intellectual property waivers and technology transfers are key in vaccinating the developing world and effectively combating the virus. This would allow developing countries to become self-sufficient.

The G7 is starkly divided on this issue of intellectual property protections. The United States and France, backed by India and South Africa, strongly support of waiving them. The United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the European Union oppose not only the waivers, stating that they disincentive investments made by the pharmaceutical industry in COVID-19 research and development, but also the technology transfers, declaring that recipient countries do not have the infrastructure to produce their own vaccines independently. Japan and Canada's position in the debate is ambiguous. When asked in early May to further clarify Ottawa's position, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada is seeking to be a mediator between the two sides.

With political pressure mounting, the G7 leaders may be forced to announce additional initiatives to combat the global epidemic.

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