G7 to share 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine with poorest countries

Global leaders at the G7 summit pledged 870 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, with half to be delivered by the end of 2021, to COVAX for distribution among low- and middle-income countries.

Hundreds of vials labelled 'COVID-19 vaccine' lined up in rows - idea of COVID-19 vaccine supply/distribution

In a landmark agreement, global leaders at the G7 summit have pledged to share 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses to support global equitable access and help end the acute phase of the pandemic.

The countries aim to deliver at least half of these doses by the end of 2021 and, in the process, reaffirmed their support for COVAX as “the primary route for providing vaccines to the poorest countries.” COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to COVAX, it will work with the G7 and other countries that have agreed to share doses as rapidly and equitably as possible. It added that the G7 agreement will help address short-term supply constraints (such as an urgent supply gap for COVID-19 vaccines expected to hit in the third quarter of 2021) currently impacting the global response to COVID-19 and minimise the prospect of future deadly variants. 

In anticipation of the large volumes available through the COVAX Facility deals portfolio later in the year, COVAX is urging multilateral development banks to urgently release funding to help countries prepare their health systems for large-scale rollout of vaccines in the coming months.

“This is an important moment of global solidarity and a critical milestone in the push to ensure those most at risk, everywhere are protected,” stated Dr Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gavi. “As we strive towards our goal of ending the acute phase of the pandemic, we look forward to working with countries to ensure these doses pledged are quickly turned into doses delivered.”

“This is an historic moment – as leaders of some of the wealthiest counties come together to ensure that all parts of the world have access to life saving vaccines,” added Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “This pandemic has shown us that we cannot set national against international interests. With a disease like COVID-19 we have to ensure that we get it under control everywhere. There is still much to do to get vaccines in arms and ensure our R&D allows us to stay one step ahead of the virus. But for today we give pause and celebrate a watershed moment of political alignment and collaboration.”

The ACT Accelerator is currently under-funded by over $16 billion this year. The accelerator has many essential roles, including promoting vaccine research and development and procurement; protecting health workers administering the tools needed to end the pandemic; testing to detect and contain hotspots, as well as identify new variants; and delivering treatments to COVID-19 patients. The funding is needed for the ACT Accelerator to address challenges such as delivering products where they are most needed, establishing testing for 500 million people in low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021 and securing the necessary supply of oxygen, as well as distributing 165 million doses of treatments for COVID-19, including dexamethasone.

Carl Bildt, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT Accelerator, said: “We welcome these commitments but there is still a significant funding gap that must be closed if we are to get the urgently needed treatments, including oxygen and tests, to low and lower-middle income countries so we are not flying blind to where the virus is and how it is changing. The time to act is now. We look to the G7 and G20 to fund the work of the ACT Accelerator, the global multilateral solution that can speed up an end to the pandemic. The world needs their political leadership because left to rage anywhere, the virus will remain a threat everywhere.”

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “We have reached a grim milestone in this pandemic: there are already more dead from COVID-19 in 2021 than in all of last year. Without urgent action, this devastation will continue. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us — children included. UNICEF thanks G7 member states for their significant pledges and continued support. However, much work remains to continue to ramp up both the amount and the pace of supply to the rest of the world, because when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, our best interests and our best natures align. This crisis will not be over until it is over for everyone.”

WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed: “Many other countries are now facing a surge in cases – and they are facing it without vaccines. We are in the race of our lives, but it is not a fair race and most countries have barely left the starting line. We welcome the generous announcements about donations of vaccines and thank leaders. But we need more, and we need them faster.”

Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, AMREF Health Africa added: “Africa’s current vaccine supply shortage risks prolonging the pandemic, not just for millions on the continent, but for the whole world. I applaud the G7’s leadership in sharing doses with COVAX and urge them, and others, to share doses now, not later in the year, when our need is greatest.”