More than 100 former prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers are among 230 leading figures calling on leaders of powerful G7 countries to pay two-thirds of the $ 66 billion (£ 46.6 billion) needed to immunize countries low income against Covid.
A letter seen by the Guardian ahead of the G7 summit to be hosted by Boris Johnson in Cornwall warns that leaders from the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and of Canada must make 2021 “a turning point in global cooperation”. Less than 2% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have been vaccinated against Covid, while the UK has now vaccinated 70% of its population with at least one dose.
The call comes as Johnson faces a rebellion from dozens of his MPs over cuts to the foreign aid budget, which have hit poorer countries and coronavirus research projects.
Johnson said on Sunday he would call on his G7 summit counterparts to “tackle the biggest post-war challenge” by “vaccinating the world by the end of next year,” but didn’t gave no details on funding or dose sharing.
Among the signatories of the vaccine letter are Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, with the two former prime ministers putting aside past differences to join the effort to put pressure on the G7. Brown said the proposal would cost the UK 30p per person per week “for the best insurance policy in the world”.
Among the personalities who signed the letter were former UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, former Irish President Mary Robinson and taoiseach Bertie Ahern and 15 former African leaders, including Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, John Mahama from Ghana and FW de Klerk from South Africa.
Other signatories include former UK Minister for Overseas Development Lynda Chalker, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar, Nobel laureate in economics Bengt Holmström and economist Lord O’Neill.
They argue the investment is affordable and vital to stopping the spread of new coronavirus variants that could undermine current vaccines. “The year 2020 has witnessed a failure of global cooperation, but 2021 may usher in a new era. No one is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe everywhere, ”they say.
“G7 and G20 support that makes vaccines readily available to low- and middle-income countries is not an act of charity, but rather is in the strategic interest of each country, and as described by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] is “the best public investment in history”.
The signatories of the letter say polls suggest the public supports them. A survey commissioned by Save the Children found that 79% of people in the UK who hold an opinion believe the G7 should pay to make the world safe. In five countries – the United States, France, Germany and Canada as well as the United Kingdom – leaving out the “don’t know”, more than 70% think their country should pay its share.
People of different ages, from different countries and from different backgrounds are united on the need for equitable access to vaccines, said Kirsty McNeill, executive director of Save the Children, who is a member of a coalition of 75 organizations. representing 12 million people called Crack. crises. They want global action on Covid, climate change and support for struggling communities.
“They want the G7 to make the world safe again. Their audiences will agree to nothing less than a serious and fully funded plan to resolve the global Covid crisis, ”she said.
It is estimated that $ 66 billion over two years is needed for the global immunization effort. Former leaders say the G7 should pay two-thirds of the cost, depending on the size of their economies.
“For the G7, paying is not charity, it is self-protection to prevent disease from spreading, mutating and coming back to threaten us all,” Brown said. “Costing just 30p per person per week in the UK is a small price to pay for the best insurance policy in the world. Savings from immunization are expected to reach around $ 9 billion by 2025. “
The first step, they say, is for G7 countries to commit 67% of the funding needed for the UN program for vaccines, tests and treatments, called the Access to the Covid-19 Tool Accelerator (ACT-A). An allocation of special drawing rights totaling $ 650 billion to low-income countries by the IMF could allow them to pay their share, Brown said.
“I looked at this question of how we pay for this whole burden-sharing formula. People will say we don’t have enough money, ”he told The Guardian. “Every country is about to get this grant, this money from the International Monetary Fund. They are about to get $ 21 billion from the IMF. It would allow them to pay for that and pay their share of everything else. “
The G7 is also expected to lead the way on dose sharing, voluntary licensing agreements and temporary patent waivers to allow vaccine manufacturing to begin on all continents, the letter said. This would force pharmaceutical companies to share the know-how and technological skills to make vaccines as well as the formula.
“Aligning global economic policy is vital. We have been fortunate that over the past year, in the initial recovery phase of Covid-19, most countries have 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 ” , he adds.