MORE THAN A MILLION PEOPLE HAVE DIED from Covid-19 since G7 leaders last met back in February 2021.

At that time they made vague pledges to increase the global vaccine supply, but crucially failed to collectively back the waiver of intellectual property rules and investment in manufacturing vaccines in developing countries that would really make the difference.

As G7 Health Ministers met for talks ahead of the Leaders’ Summit next week, The People’s Vaccine Alliance called on the G7 to stop making empty promises and protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies, and instead take urgent action to close the massive vaccine void between their nations and poorer countries.

New calculations from the Alliance, which includes Health Justice Initiative, Oxfam, and UNAIDS, found that last month, people living in G7 countries were 77 times more likely to be offered a vaccine than those living in the world’s poorest countries. Between them, G7 nations were vaccinating at a rate of 4.6 million people a day in May, meaning, if this rate continues, everyone living in G7 nations should be fully vaccinated by 8 January 2022. At the current rate – vaccinating 63,000 people a day – it would take low income countries 57 years to reach the same level of protection.

Of the 1.77 billion doses of Covid vaccines given globally, 28 per cent have been in G7 countries. In contrast, just 0.3 per cent of  Covid jabs have been given in low-income countries, despite the fact G7 and low-income countries have a fairly similar population size.

Fatima Hassan, Founder and Director of Health Justice Initiative in South Africa, said: “Eight people have died from Covid every minute since G7 leaders last met. That’s more than a million lives lost, while just a few countries, including the UK and Germany, continue to block proposals to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments which would enable every qualified manufacturer in the world to produce vaccines instead of a handful of US and European pharma corporations.

“Whatever pledges and promises the G7 make, they are still leaving pharmaceutical corporations to decide who lives and who dies, unless they back the ending of these Covid vaccine monopolies.”

While some G7 members claim they have done their bit by pledging doses or funding to COVAX, the initiative, which was set up to help developing countries access Covid vaccines, is massively failing. COVAX has delivered less than a third of the doses it promised to by the end of May and the Alliance warned that at the current rate, it is likely to reach only 10 per cent of people at best in developing countries by the end of the year.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “It is obscene that the UK, Germany and other rich countries, which are able to vaccinate their own people, are preventing poor countries from making the doses they need to save lives.

“The sad fact is developing countries cannot depend on COVAX or the good will of the pharma industry to save the lives of their people. G7 leaders must take this moment to stand on the right side of history by putting their full support behind the vaccine patent waiver supported by more than 100 countries. The G7 may be getting the vaccines they need but too much of the world is not and people are paying for patent protection with their lives.”

Of the G7 nations, only the US are backing the proposal at the WTO to waive intellectual property rights. The UK and  Germany are opposing, while Canada, France, Japan and Italy are sat on the fence. This is despite the fact the public are strongly in favour of the idea, with polling showing that an average of 70 per cent of people across G7 nations believing that governments should ensure pharmaceutical companies share their formulas and technology, so that qualified manufacturers around the world can help increase the supply.

Dr Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Senior Health Policy Advisor to The People Vaccine Alliance, said: “The G7 must act now to force companies to share the vaccine technology and know-how  with qualified manufacturers in developing countries in order to maximise supply.

“Last week the WHO has relaunched its Covid-19 Technology Access Pool to facilitate sharing vaccines technology, knowhow and intellectual property. The G7 must show a strong political support for the pool if they are serious about ending the pandemic. They must also announce funding to support technology transfer and manufacturing in developing countries. Every day they delay is a day that lives could be saved.”

* The data on global Covid deaths is here.

* Source: Oxfam International