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G7 vaccine greed ‘will prolong Covid pandemic’

Aid groups challenge Western leaders to use summit to turn tide on ‘morally repugnant’ vaccine apartheid

GLOBAL Covid-19 vaccine inequality is “a stain on our collective humanity,” campaigners charged yesterday as they urged G7 leaders to act ahead of a major summit.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance pointed out that more than a million people have died with the virus since the leaders last met and made pledges to increase global supplies in February.

The campaign group, which includes Health Justice Initiative, Oxfam, and Unaids, calculated that people living in G7 countries — Britain, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — were 77 times more likely to have access to a jab than those living in the world’s poorest countries.

The alliance said that, between them, the seven countries were vaccinating at a rate of 4.6 million people a day in May, meaning their populations should be fully vaccinated by January next year.

In contrast, poorer countries were vaccinating at a rate of just 63,000 people a day, it warned, meaning the global South would not be protected until 2078 — in 57 years’ time. 

The group is calling for G7 leaders to collectively back an intellectual property rights waiver on vaccines so that production can be ramped up globally, a proposal already backed by US President Joe Biden but rejected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Britain has said it will donate spare jabs through the international Covax scheme, but it is yet to commit to anything beyond vaccine charity. 

The calls come ahead of today’s G7 health ministers’ meeting, where Health Secretary Matt Hancock will meet his G7 and EU counterparts in Oxford.

G7 leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson will then meet for a summit in Cornwall next week, where pandemic recovery will be high on the agenda.

Despite the apparent success of Britain’s vaccination programme, scientists have cautioned that the country is at risk of importing new coronavirus variants — such as the so-called Indian variant — unless more is done to help other nations stop the spread.

Yesterday, Oxford University’s Sir John Bell warned: “What we mustn’t do is say, ‘oh well… just as a charitable issue, we should help them out and see how they go.’ This is still part of our fight against the virus.”

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said: “For more than a year, G7 leaders have buried their heads in the sand, ignoring the need to clear away artificial barriers to vaccine supply.

“The result has been vaccine apartheid, with high vaccination rates in rich countries while people in the global South are left to suffer. 

“This summit is a chance to turn the tide. The Biden administration now supports an intellectual property waiver on vaccines, but the British government is refusing to budge.

“We cannot allow millions more to die worldwide and our own vaccine programme to be derailed because of the intransigence of this Tory government.”

War on Want senior trade campaigner Leah Sullivan blasted the government for having “blood on its hands.”

She said: “Blocking the acceleration of vaccine production so that private corporations can reap the profits is morally repugnant and a stain on our collective humanity,” she said.

“The UK’s claim that ‘no-one is safe until we are all safe’ rings hollow.

“But this is about more than just a vaccine waiver. What is at stake is a fight for universal public services, including public health systems, to tackle the pandemic and all the other crises we face.

“We must change our trade rules and end the failed policies of privatisation — which deny so many countries across the world the tools needed to save the lives of their citizens.”

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