THE Group of Seven (G7) nations is set to commit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with the world, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, with half coming from the US and 100 million from the UK, as US President Joe Biden (pictured) urges allies to join in speeding the pandemic’s end and bolstering the strategic position of the world’s wealthiest democracies.
Johnson’s announcement on the eve of the G7 leaders’ summit in England came hours after Biden committed to donating 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and previewed a co-ordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere.
“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that on Friday (US time) the G7 nations would join the US in outlining their vaccine donation commitments. The G7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
The prime minister’s office said the first 5 million UK doses would be shared in coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year. Biden’s own commitment was on top of the 80 million doses he has already pledged to donate by the end of June.
“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus,” Johnson said in a statement, referencing the US president’s campaign slogan.
Earlier on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the US commitment and said Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year’s end.
“I think the European Union needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States,” he said at a news conference. He added that time was of the essence, saying, “It’s almost more important to say how many (doses) we deliver the next month than making promises to be fulfilled in 18 months from now.”
The G7 leaders have faced mounting pressure to outline their global vaccine-sharing plans, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced. In the US, there is a large vaccine stockpile and the demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.
Biden predicted the US doses and the overall G7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the US doses came with no strings attached.
The club of leading economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – say a joint approach is the world’s best chance for recovering from the global health crisis, and tackling climate change. But as the summit opened on Friday, campaigners said the plan – which includes 500 million US doses and 100 million from the UK – fell short.
“If the best G7 leaders can manage is to donate one billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure,” Oxfam’s health policy manager Anna Marriott said, insisting the world needs 11 billion doses instead as she called for a global waiver on patent protections for vaccines.
“Charity is not going to fix the colossal vaccine supply crisis,” she said. “The G7 should break the pharmaceutical monopolies and insist that the vaccine science and know-how is shared with qualified manufacturers around the world.
“Presidents Biden and Macron have supported a waiver on the intellectual property behind COVID vaccines – the other G7 nations should follow their lead. The lives of millions of people in developing countries should never be dependent on the goodwill of rich nations and profit-hungry pharmaceutical corporations.”
Alex Harris, director of government relations at Wellcome, a London-based science and health charitable foundation, said: “The new US and UK commitments are a step in the right direction, but they don’t go far enough, fast enough.
“What the world needs is vaccines now, not later this year. At this historic moment, the G7 must show the political leadership our crisis demands … We urge G7 leaders to raise their ambition.”
President Joe Biden is setting the tone, ditching Donald Trump’s isolationist stance on global affairs, to ram home a message of resolve by the G7 and NATO against both Beijing and Moscow as he heads on to his first sit-down meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva.
“The driving animating purpose of this G7 summit is to show that democracy can deliver against the biggest challenges we’re facing in the world,” a senior US administration official said.
The G7 leaders, meeting at the seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, southwest England, are also expected to outline more help for developing nations to build up infrastructure, as a counterpoint to the debt-fuelled spending by China in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The initiative “will embrace a high standards, transparent, climate-friendly, non-corrupt mechanism” for infrastructure investment in the developing world, the US official said.
“It will be an alternative to that which other countries, including China, are offering.”
Underpinning the US-led diplomatic revival, Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday adopted a new “Atlantic Charter”, modelled on the pact signed by their World War II predecessors to help build a new world order.
Johnson dislikes the decades-old phrase “special relationship”, arguing it makes Britain look subservient to Washington, telling the BBC instead that it should be viewed as “indestructible”.
He also played down any differences with Biden over Northern Ireland, ahead of showdown talks between the prime minister and EU chiefs on Saturday to tackle deep fissures opened up by Brexit.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit back on Friday after French President Emmanuel Macron launched a broadside over UK back-pedalling regarding special post-Brexit arrangements for the restive province.
Raab told Sky News that “change must come from the European Commission side” and that “we are not negotiating or haggling the integrity of the United Kingdom”.
Late Thursday, more than 3,000 pro-UK loyalists staged a protest in Belfast against the “protocol” that effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU customs union and single market.
Marshmallows by sea
Johnson will be hoping to lighten the mood at a beach barbecue on Saturday, joined by his wife Carrie and other G7 spouses, with a sea shanty band and toasted marshmallows around fire pits.
That will follow a reception for the G7 leaders on Friday evening hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Cornwall’s Eden Project, an exhibition that showcases the world’s ecological riches.
Safeguarding global biodiversity is another G7 theme this weekend, with the leaders set on an agreement to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.
They will also debate aiding poorer nations to transition out of fossil fuels, in the buildup to the UN’s COP26 summit in November in Scotland.— Al Jazeera/The Guardian.
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