Will the G7 Summit bring greater hopes to the Caribbean and developing countries?
This weekend’s G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall (June 11-13) will see Host Prime Minister Boris Johnson use the presidency from Friday to Sunday, to try to unite members around common issues affecting their affected economies by COVID.
Most importantly, they will be forced to pay more attention to the global challenge of COVID-19 this time around, with more than a million people having died around the world since they last met a year ago.
The other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – are not as advanced as the United States and the United Kingdom, in their respective levels of population immunization.
But together, the G7 and the European Union (EU) have enough vaccines in stock to vaccinate their entire population multiple times.
Now they are called upon to talk less and do more to help developing countries by donating vaccines, removing barriers to faster and fairer distribution around the world and for multinational pharmaceutical companies in states Members release patent restrictions to allow developing countries to produce vaccines faster and locally.
Leaders of the world’s richest countries will also be under intense pressure to respond to U.S. President Joe Biden’s vaccine diplomacy, through which he has indicated that the United States will donate 13% of its vaccine surplus (80 million) to other countries by the end of June, release US restrictions on the export of raw materials for vaccine manufacture abroad and support calls for the relaxation of patent rights.
The G7 countries control 58% of global wealth ($ 317 trillion), over 66% of global economic output, 46% of global GDP (based on nominal values) and 32% of global GDP ( based on purchasing power parity).
The G7 and EU countries control 62% of the world’s wealth, including the ten countries that have purchased 75% of all vaccines produced in the world to date.
Immunization levels are between 40% and 50% of the population in the UK and the US is targeting 70% by July 4; and EU states have an average of 30%, but enough to take them safely through 2024.
However, most developing countries (including Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean) are between 1% and 2% – and although African Union (AU) member states have purchased 220 million Johnson & Johnson single-injection vaccines is still just a drop in the ocean of Africa’s overall vaccine needs.
China, the most populous country in the world, vaccinates at a rate of 20 million people a day and aims to vaccinate 40% of its population by the end of June, 15 months after the start of the pandemic.
In India, the second most populous country, only 10% are expected to have received their first doses of immunization by the end of May, with estimates that it would take another two years – at this slow rate – to immunize the 90 % remaining.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the whole world could have been vaccinated by now, if only rich countries had signed up to the provisions for equitable global distribution through its COVAX program.
But COVAX still misses over 200 million doses and if vaccines are not produced more widely and delivered faster, millions more will die who can be saved.
WHO calls for more countries to join the United States, which is the largest contributor ($ 4 billion) to COVAX under Biden, after Trump withdrew the United States and withdrew his annual donation of $ 400 million .
China, which has donated more vaccines to Africa than COVAX, also donated 10 million vaccines to COVAX, just after one of its coronavirus vaccines was also approved by the WHO for emergency use.
The United States says it is ready to share more of its accumulated stocks of Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, starting with supplies from AztraZeneca. Pfizer and Moderna also belatedly pledged to deliver two billion doses to developing countries by the end of 2021.
But while welcome, the promised vaccines will take at least two months to deliver – while 70% of the world’s population continue to wait in limbo after a full year of under and irregular deliveries.
As new viral variants are discovered at rates that make their futures very uncertain, G7 and EU countries continue to look inward, raising drawbridges and building border walls while avoiding appeals. to share vaccines and technologies with developing countries.
But they have all been sharply criticized by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who noted on June 7 (on the eve of the launch of his new book “Seven Ways to Change the World”) that “The world has vaccines and science to cure themselves, but leaders lack the political will.
Additionally, UNICEF says G7 and EU countries can donate 20% of their excess stocks in June, July and August, which would make more than 150 million doses available to developing countries.
Of the 1.5 billion doses of vaccine administered worldwide, only slightly more or about 1% of the African and Caribbean populations received their first vaccine more than a year after the declaration of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Johnson will seek to pull the G7 out of the COVID crisis at a time when the world hopes for the best, but expects the worst.
He will be haunted by the scathing criticisms of his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who said in a recent investigation that he blamed his former boss for the “systemic failures” that led to much of the “chaos and destruction. indecision “which prevented the British government from responding positively, soon enough.
Cummings said Johnson and his cabinet underestimated the danger and placed over-reliance on the “herd immunity” proposals, which in total resulted in many preventable deaths, accusing Johnson of having blood of UK victims of COVID death on his hands because he responded too late, did too little and didn’t take enough time to learn from the experiences and rapid responses of China, Taiwan and from Singapore.
Pressure will also be on Johnson and his peers to respond to the strong call from India and South Africa – backed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) – for pharmaceutical companies in the G7 states to lift. temporarily the restrictions associated with their patent rights.
G7 countries had indeed supported calls for equity in vaccine distribution in early May, with concerns also expressed later about “risk management” and “risk avoidance”.
But with the time of death and the WHO warning, the overall numbers may be at least three times higher and closer to 8 million than the 3.5 million officially recorded today – also recently confirmed by Peru – the pressure will be on the G7 countries to do more. , much faster to help secure the rest of the world, from the perspective that until the whole world is safe, nowhere will be safe from COVID-19 in 2021 or beyond.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – with a population of 18 million – and Latin America (with a combined population of 665 million), will certainly look forward to receiving their fair share of the six million doses that Washington has promised to provide. by the end of this month.
But wealth and size being the main criteria for measuring vaccine procurement and accumulation, access and distribution, countries in the Caribbean and Africa can expect that if the he opening of Friday’s summit will be loaded with fine words and fine promises, the devil, as always, will be in the details following the usual wordy communiqué after the summit ends on Sunday.