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G7: Germany urges vaccine solidarity

June 3, 2021

About half of the vaccines produced in the EU are being exported to the rest of the world, according to Germany's health minister. Yet Britain and the US had sent virtually no doses abroad.

British Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock (L) received his German counterpart, Jens Spahn in Oxford University.
The G7 health ministers meeting is held at Oxford UniversityImage: Stefan Rousseau/empics/picture alliance

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday urged COVID-19 vaccine producers to step up alliances with manufacturers in developing countries.

His remarks came ahead of a meeting of G7 health ministers in Britain amid increasing calls for wealthy countries to share COVID-19 vaccines with lower-income nations. 

Spahn also reiterated Germany's support for financing the COVAX vaccine sharing program.

"One in five inoculations [around] the world is financed by Germany, and, actually, that shows how much we are committed to this goal — to vaccinate the world," Spahn said.

"We want companies like BioNTech-Pfizer, Curevac, AstraZeneca to cooperate with other companies in India and Africa to really make it possible to 'tech transfer,' and to have other production sites there, too," he added.   

IMF, World Bank join call for G7 to do more on jabs

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass told the G7 to release any excess COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries as soon as possible, and called on manufacturers to ramp up production.

"Distributing vaccines more widely is both an urgent economic necessity and a moral imperative," they said. "The coronavirus pandemic will not end until everyone has access to vaccines, including people in developing countries."

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has urged richer nations to share their excess doses of coronavirus vaccines with poorer countries.Image: Reuters/R. Casilli

Malpass and Georgieva, a former EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, will meet in person on Friday and Saturday with finance officials from the G7 countries — Britain, the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, France and Japan.

How the G7 presses on with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to be a central topic in those talks.

The pair also urged increased transparency for vaccine contracts, options and agreements; vaccine financing and delivery agreements; and doses delivered and future delivery plans.

Their intevention came just hours before US President Joe Biden pledged to give away 80 million doses across the world by the end of June from the country's excess stocks, with most of those shots going to the UN scheme COVAX.

Have G7 states contributed to fairer vaccine distribution?

The G7 countries have already committed to supporting COVAX. But last month, UNICEF warned that the program might come 190 million doses short of its initial estimations.   

"We'll be working together with G7 partners to try to meet the objective that a vaccine is made available right across the world," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters ahead of Thursday's meeting.

The US vowed last month to export 80 million shots to other countries "without any political strings attached." 

Britain had pledged to donate its excess doses to COVAX. However, Hancock said the UK did not have the capacity to uphold this pledge.

"We don't have any excess doses," he said, noting that more than half a billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been released for supply globally.

Of course, Britain should be proud "of what has been developed here in Oxford," Spahn told the DPA news agency. 

The critical issue is to make the vaccines, developed under international cooperation, available to the world, he said.

What else is on the G7 meeting agenda?

The G7 discussions are also set to discuss protection against future pandemics and improving the identification of animal-borne infections.

The ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States vowed to "combat future health threats by working together to identify early warning signs from animals and the environment."

"There will be more diseases that cross that boundary from animals to humans," Hancock said. 

The meeting location, the city of Oxford, was chosen symbolically. Oxford University researchers had developed a COVID-19 vaccine together with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

fb, jf/rt (AFP, dpa)