G-7 health chiefs to discuss Covid-19 vaccine sharing, animal diseases as Britain hosts summit

The meeting comes as the world's wealthiest countries face pressure to do more to help vaccines reach poorer countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - The Group of Seven (G-7) health ministers will meet on Thursday (June 3) to discuss sharing vaccines with poorer countries and improving identification of animal-borne infections ahead of next week's summit in Britain.

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 said.

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 said.

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 programmes.

The British government has just published a new report on G-7 progress since 2015 on helping developing countries access vaccines and contain the spread of infections.

The G-7 countries are already committed to support the Covax global vaccine sharing programme.

British Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that more than 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 G-7 finance ministers in London last Friday, Ms 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 US$50 billion (S$66 billion).

This is far less than the massive stimulus programmes rolled out by rich nations, including the latest US$1.9 trillion US package approved in March.

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