G-20 Countries Face Vaccine Inequality

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to divide the world into vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, the leaders of the world’s 20 richest countries are scheduled to meet this weekend to discuss how to address this deep gap.

Concerns about the pandemic are likely to overshadow the first in-person meeting of G-20 leaders since 2019, and equality of access to vaccines is a key issue. The summit is scheduled to begin on Saturday in Rome.

US President Joe Biden claims that the US, the world’s richest country, is also the “world’s vaccine arsenal.” The US pledged vaccine dose of 1.1 billion, dwarfs other countries’ donations.

The second shipment of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine arriving at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, February 27, 2021. (Photo: Kim Ludbrook via Reuters)

The second shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine arriving at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, February 27, 2021. (Photo: Kim Ludbrook via Reuters)

But this is not enough, health activists say. A fraction of the promised vaccine has actually been delivered, and a new study by science analytics firm Airfinity found that G-20 countries received 15 times more per capita doses of COVID-19 vaccine than countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

World leaders have indicated they are willing to do more together. In September, G-20 ministers unanimously signed the Rome Pact, confirming the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of vaccinating 40 percent of the global population by 2021.

Critics were quick to point out that the document did not mention specific commitments. Activists and aid organizations are urging G-20 countries to make concrete promises, to speed up vaccine delivery schedules and be more generous – not only by delivering vaccines but also the technology for making them, and the tools needed to inject them.

Activists argue this is not just a problem for those who cannot afford it, but it is a problem that harms everyone.

“Vaccine inequality is not only holding back the poorest countries, it is holding back the world,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “While leaders meet to set priorities for the next stage of the COVID-19 response, it is imperative that they remember that, in the race for a COVID vaccine, we win together, or we lose together,” he continued.

Arsenal Vaccine

The White House says it has donated more vaccines than any other country, and U.S. officials have refuted criticism of the authorities’ decision to allow booster injections (booster) for Americans when so many people around the world haven’t had their first shot.

Nathalie Ernoult, head of advocacy for the organization’s Access campaign for Doctors Without Borders, said the US can do much more than promise donations.

A new report by the anti-poverty organization ONE Campaign calculates that, of the 6.5 billion-plus doses of vaccine promised by G-20 countries, about 44 percent have been delivered. Tom Hart, the organization’s acting CEO, said the move was not fast enough. At current delivery rates, he said, it would take more than a decade for low-income countries to reach their target of vaccinating 70 percent of their population. [uh/ab]

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