British PM Johnson calls on G-7 to vaccinate world against Covid-19 by end of 2022

Health experts have warned that unless more Covid-19 shots are donated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate.
Health experts have warned that unless more Covid-19 shots are donated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) rich nations to make a commitment to vaccinate the entire world against Covid-19 by the end of 2022 when they meet in Britain this week. 

Mr Johnson will host the first in-person summit in almost two years of G-7 leaders, and says he will seek a pledge to hit the global vaccination goal. 

“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history,” Mr Johnson said on Saturday (June 5). “I’m calling on my fellow G-7 leaders to join us to end this terrible pandemic and pledge we will never allow the devastation wreaked by coronavirus to happen again.” 

The leaders of Germany, France, the United States, Italy, Japan, the European Union and Canada will join Mr Johnson for the three-day summit in Cornwall, south-west England, which begins on Friday. It will be the first overseas trip for US President Joe Biden since he took office in January. 

While the richest nations have been vaccinating large numbers of their populations against the deadly coronavirus, many poorer countries have not had the same access to vaccines. Health experts warn that unless more Covid-19 shots are donated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate. 

The UK Sunday Times reported yesterday that the British government will donate more than 100 million coronavirus vaccinations to developing countries at the G-7 summit, and promise more next year. The report, which did not say where it got the information, added that the shots would be worth more than £2 billion (S$3.8 billion). 

"We have a responsibility to do everything we can to defeat Covid around the world," Mr Johnson tweeted late on Saturday. 

Britain has ordered more than 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for its population of 67 million – enough to vaccinate its people more than three times over, assuming a two-dose regimen. It has said it will donate any shots it does not need. 

The United States, meanwhile, will donate 750,000 vaccine doses to Taiwan as part of its plan to share shots globally, US Senator Tammy Duckworth said on Sunday. 

The White House outlined a plan last week to share 25 million surplus doses globally and said it would lift some restrictions to allow countries to buy US-made supplies for vaccine production. 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in London for a G-7 finance ministers meeting late last week, said it was urgent for the richest nations to promote vaccinations in poorer countries that could not afford to buy them. 

She also repeated the US position that patent rights should be removed for the vaccines and said they were doing everything they could to address supply chain problems that were preventing a build-up of shots in other parts of the world. 

Taiwan is dealing with a spike in domestic cases but, like many places, has been affected by global vaccines shortages. Only around 3 per cent of its 23.5 million people have been vaccinated, with most getting only their first shot. 

Speaking at Taipei’s Songshan airport after arriving on a three-hour visit on Sunday, Ms Duckworth said Taiwan would get the shots as part of a first tranche of US donations. 

“It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognise your urgent need and we value this partnership,” she said, without specifying which vaccines it would get, or when they would arrive. 

Taiwan has complained that China – which sees the island as a breakaway province awaiting reunification – is trying to block it from accessing vaccines internationally, which Beijing denies. 

Beijing has offered the island Chinese-made vaccines, but the government in Taipei has repeatedly expressed concerns about their safety, and in any case cannot import them without changing Taiwanese law, which bans their import. 

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the US vaccines, along with those Japan donated last week, would be a great help in the island's fight against the virus. 

“The vaccines are timely rain for Taiwan, and your assistance will be etched on our hearts,” Ms Tsai said. 

Japan delivered a donation of 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Taiwan last Friday, more than doubling the amount of shots the island has received to date. The country is also preparing to donate shots to Vietnam, and plans to pledge an additional US$800 million (S$1.1 billion) to the Covax vaccine-sharing global initiative, on top of an earlier US$200 million already promised. 

Among others in the G-7 bloc, the EU has said it intends to donate at least 100 million vaccine doses to poorer nations by the end of the year.