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Coronavirus: G20 health ministers aim for global vaccine distribution 'pact'

The world's leading economies have discussed plans to increase distribution of vaccines to poorer countries. Germany has promised to donate 100 million vaccine doses to global inoculation campaigns.

A member of a Kenyan hospital staff receives one of the country's first coronavirus vaccinations using AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

The health ministers said more needed to be done to close the gap between wealthier and poorer countries on vaccines

Health ministers from the world's 20 major economies met for two days in Rome to discuss coordinating strategies moving forward in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

What happened during the meeting? 

After the meeting, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the countries had agreed to send financial assistance to poorer nations, along with more vaccines. 

"There is a political commitment to distribute vaccines to the whole world," Speranza told journalists.

Italy hosted the G20 meeting, with the southern European nation currently holding the rotating G20 presidency.

During the first day of talks on Sunday, the ministers had agreed that increasing equitable distribution of COVID vaccines to countries in need was critical to ending the pandemic.

Speranza had called for a "Rome pact" on vaccine distribution during the meeting.

"Only by working together can we guarantee a fairer distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,'' he said.

The Italian health minister said more needed to be done to close the gap between wealthier and poorer countries on vaccine distribution.

Germany plans to donate millions of doses

On the sidelines of the meeting Sunday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany was planning to donate 100 million COVID vaccine doses before the end of the year to international inoculation campaigns. That almost matches the number of doses so far administered in Germany.

Spahn said the contribution would help toward the goal of having at least 40% of the world's population vaccinated against coronavirus before 2022.

Spahn warned that the pandemic is only over when infections subside worldwide, pointing to the dangers of variants emerging in unvaccinated hot spots spreading elsewhere. 

Watch video 03:34

Consequences of inequitable vaccine distribution

Top EU health official: World could achieve 40% vaccination goal

One of the participants at the G20 conference, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, told DW that the world could achieve the 40% vaccination goal before next year.

"We have to work towards that aim," Kyriakides said, while adding that vaccine production in Africa needs to be ramped up. "This would enable us to reach all parts of the continent quicker."

Kyriakides also acknowledged that some EU members states such as Bulgaria and Romania have had slow vaccine rollouts.

"It is clear, what we need to do is: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!" she said.

G20 meeting organizers vow cooperation in tackling health crisis

The meeting's organizers said in a statement that the goal of the minister meeting was to send "a strong message of cooperation, solidarity and justice, in the firm belief that nobody should be left behind."

Italy's Speranza has also called for a "One Health" approach during the meeting to mitigate crises in the future, such as another pandemic. The "One Health" strategy acknowledges that humans, animals and the environment are interconnected. 

The health minister's meeting came ahead of the G20 leaders' summit in Rome on October 30.

Western countries have faced criticism, not least from the World Health Organization, for hoarding and ordering too many vaccine supplies, with discussions on issuing booster shots despite minimal evidence of their effectiveness prompting a more recent WHO rebuke on behalf of poorer countries.

wmr, wd/msh (dpa, AP)