More than 160 global leaders including former presidents and prime ministers, economists and humanitarian campaigners, have written a joint letter to Italian premier, Mario Draghi, urging him to use his chair of the G20 summit to stop rich nations hoarding COVID vaccines and back a plan to airlift their vaccine excess to 92 nations struggling to get vaccination programmes underway.
About 100 former presidents, prime ministers and ministers of state - many from Africa, Asia and Latin America - want the G20 to agree a month-by-month delivery plan and timetable to release their growing stockpiles of vaccines - currently projected to grow to a staggering 600 million surplus vaccines - by December.
They ask Premier Draghi to consider the G20 meeting this weekend “as an opportunity to address this inequitable distribution”, and change the course of current vaccine stockpiling in G20 nations and switch their delivery contracts which have created their vaccine surpluses, with the 92 low-income countries who are still struggling to vaccinate even their health workers.
Signatories urging G20 change include former European nation premiers, Graça Machel, Vice Chair of The Elders group and Nelson Mandela’s widow, Ethiopia's ex-Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Argentina's ex-President Mauricio Macri, former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, former Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, three ex-New Zealand Prime Ministers Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley and John Key, former President of Israel Dalia Itzik, former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Minister of Senegal Aminata Touré, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Ireland’s ex- Taoiseach John Bruton, Ukraine's ex-President Viktor Yushchenko, current Vice President of the World Bank Mats Larsson as well as members of the illustrious Club de Madrid group, CEO of Save the Children International Inger Ashing, Public Health Professor at Edinburgh University Devi Sridhar, economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari, ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, ex Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. (Full signatories are attached)
Many G20 nations are surging towards or beyond 70% vaccination rates - the WHO's vaccination target for mid next year. Meanwhile only 5% of African countries have reached this year's target of 40% with similarly low levels in low-income countries in Latin America and Asia.
Some countries have only reached a 2% vaccination rate and, the letter notes, the COVID death toll is still rising and low-income nations require "immediate relief".
WHO ambitions for 40% of all the world’s population to be vaccinated by the end of the year can now only be met, they write, if the G20 make the joint decision this weekend to order an emergency vaccine transfer of their excess supplies.
Latest figures from Airfinity show that G20 countries have so far secured 89% of the delivery contracts from pharma companies of all the 6.5 billion vaccines. They still have control of 71% of future vaccine deliveries. It is this inequity the elders seek to address.
With the needs of the poorer countries - some with a vaccination rate of just 2% - now much greater, the global elders urge Premier Draghi to lead the reset of G20 vaccine policy and agree the optimistic plan, devised by the WHO, set out in detail in the letter, “which can meet what the WHO has said is a spring date in 2022 for 70% of all adults to be vaccinated”.
The signatories warn that without “high-level action” by G20 leaders this weekend and “immediate relief” via an ambitious airlift reallocation of surpluses, “100 million vaccine doses will have passed their use-by date at the end of this year. if we do not act quickly, the figure could exceed 200 million by the end of January 2022”.
“It would be unethical for all these vaccines to be wasted when globally, there are 10,000 COVID-19 deaths every day, many of which could have been averted,” they write.
“Unfortunately, the rate at which lives are being lost is increasing, not decreasing. With each new wave being worse than the previous wave, many experts fear that things will worsen when the impending fourth wave arrives unless vaccines are swiftly provided.
"Vaccine inequity constitutes a threat to us all. Just as one cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire, so we are all not safe until everyone is safe. Without rapidly scaled up vaccination, fast-moving variants will continue to arise in unvaccinated regions which are bound to spread to the fully vaccinated elsewhere and undermine the vaccination progress made to date.
“As you know, the probability of death increases with increasing poverty. It is estimated that the failure to deliver vaccines to low-income countries will cost the world $5.3 trillion. Low-income countries will bear the brunt of these costs as they cannot begin to recover from the pandemic without far greater access to vaccines.
“When the G20 convenes in Rome, we hope that they will agree that the poorest and the most vulnerable can finally have access to the miracle of life-saving vaccines."
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