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People standing near the gate of a vaccination center.

People standing near the gate of a vaccination center with a notice saying "vaccine over closed for the day" in Mumbai, India. (Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ahead of Summit, 200+ Global Leaders Call on G7 Nations to Help Vaccinate the World's Poor

"No one anywhere is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe everywhere."

Julia Conley

Adding their voices to global calls for an end to Covid-19 vaccine apartheid, more than 200 former presidents, foreign ministers, prime ministers, and other prominent figures on Monday demanded that the G7 nations take the lead in paying to vaccinate people in the Global South against the virus.

Taking on a bulk of the financial responsibility for distributing vaccine doses to lower-income countries, said the leaders in an open letter, "is not an act of charity, but rather is in every country's strategic interest," including those in the Global South. 

"What we need now, in this next phase, is an agreed global growth plan with coordinated monetary and fiscal interventions to prevent an uneven and unbalanced recovery—and ensure a more inclusive, equitable, and greener future." —200+ world leaders

Signatories including former U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Ghanaian President John Mahama, and Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar sent the letter ahead of the G7 summit, which begins Friday in England.

The G7 nations—which include the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada, France, Italy, and Germany—should pay two-thirds of the $66 billion needed over the next two years to vaccinate low-income countries, the signatories said.

"Costing just 30 pence ($0.43) per person per week in the U.K., is a small price to pay for the best insurance policy in the world," former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who also signed the letter, said in a statement Monday. 

The amount of money the U.S. is being asked to pay to help vaccinate the world against Covid-19 is a fraction of its annual military budget, which is expected to increase to $733 billion this year. 

Without a cooperative effort by the richest countries in the world, the letter says, Covid-19 variants will continue to emerge and circulate, with no guarantee that vaccines—which have currently been given to fewer than 2% of people in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 60% of people in the U.K. and 51% of people in the U.S.—will continue to be effective without a concerted effort to inoculate people in developing countries. 

"The year 2020 witnessed a failure of global cooperation, but 2021 can usher in a new era," the letter reads. "No one anywhere is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe everywhere."

At the current rate, the coalition of groups known as the People's Vaccine said last week, it would take 57 years for everyone in the Global South to be fully vaccinated.

The People's Vaccine called on G7 countries to consider at the upcoming summit a proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to allow the development of generic versions of the Covid-19 vaccines. 

"Inaction costs lives," the groups said. "We've suffered more than a million Covid deaths in the last four months while G7 leaders fail to break up vaccine monopolies."

The call from the People's Vaccine and the former leaders comes not only ahead of the G7 Summit but also a meeting of the TRIPS Council, at which European Union officials are expected to block a waiver—even as countries including the U.S., Japan, and New Zealand have expressed support for waiving intellectual property rights for vaccines.

"On Friday, the EU submitted two papers at the WTO that recycle debunked, stale Big Pharma defenses of WTO rules and claim that anything but expansive IP monopolies are causing the dire global shortage of Covid vaccines, treatments and tests," said the U.S. government watchdog Public Citizen on Monday. "The EU 'plan' is to urge current vaccine makers to produce more, an approach that already has failed spectacularly and now imperils the world."

Calls for the world's richest economies to do everything in their power to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 are broadly supported by the public, Reuters reported. A poll by Save the Children found that 79% of people in the U.K. and in the U.S. supported the G7 nations paying the bulk of the cost of distributing vaccine doses to the Global South. 

"Global economic policy alignment is vital," the letter sent on Monday said. "We were fortunate that, over the last year, in the initial Covid-19 recovery phase, most countries followed similar policies, resulting in an acceptable level of policy alignment. What we need now, in this next phase, is an agreed global growth plan with coordinated monetary and fiscal interventions to prevent an uneven and unbalanced recovery—and ensure a more inclusive, equitable, and greener future."

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