Wealthiest nations’ health chiefs to mull vaccine sharing

LONDON – The G7 health ministers will meet Thursday to discuss sharing vaccines with poorer countries and improving identification of animal-borne infections ahead of next week’s summit in the United Kingdom.

Ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States will pledge at a meeting in Oxford to “combat future health threats by working together to identify early warning signs from animals and the environment,” the British government says.

They will agree to a “new international approach” to prevent diseases spreading, since three-fifths of all infections jump from animals to humans, Britain’s health ministry says.

The meeting comes as the world’s wealthiest countries face pressure to do more to help vaccines reach poorer countries that do not have enough stocks for comprehensive inoculation programs.

People wait in line to receive a dose of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine, at Tej Bahadur Sapru hospital in Allahabad on May 1, 2021, during the first day of India’s vaccination drive to all adults. (Sanjay Kanoija/AFP)

The British government has just published a new report on G7 progress since 2015 on helping developing countries access vaccines and contain the spread of infections. The G7 countries are already committed to support the COVAX global vaccine sharing program.

British health minister Matt Hancock on Wednesday said over half a billion doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been released for supply globally, mostly in “low- and middle-income countries.”

But calls are mounting for wealthier countries to share more. At a meeting of G7 finance ministers in London on Friday, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, will present a relatively low-cost plan to end the pandemic by expanding vaccination access. The plan, developed with the World Health Organisation and the World Trade Organisation, is calling for a financial commitment of $50 billion.

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