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The G20's Vaccine Imperative

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Dear Prime Minister Draghi,

We congratulate you on your preparations for the G20 summit on October 30. We wish to bring to your attention the issue of the inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution plaguing our planet, and to ask you to consider the G20 meeting as an opportunity to address this inequitable distribution.

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    Over six billion doses have been administered worldwide, but 70% of these doses were administered by only a few of the world’s 194 countries, and only 2% of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose.

    Vaccines can play a major role in ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all, and only if we collaborate with one another as no one is safe until we are all safe.

    We believe that vaccine inequality can be ended, and that high-level action by the G20 will help immensely to do that. Now and every month until the end of the year, the richest nations, because of overordering, will be sitting on a vaccine stockpile of unused doses that are surplus to their requirements. Meanwhile, only 5% of Africa is fully vaccinated. Similar problems exist in large parts of Asia and Latin America. In order to reach the 70% vaccination target the world has set – the vaccination levels of high-income countries – five billion more vaccines are needed including 1.6 billion additional vaccines in Africa. Achieving this goal is within the world’s reach, should high-income countries decide to share their surplus doses immediately.

    A detailed plan can be agreed by the G20 to redistribute available vaccines and switch delivery contracts to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, the international bulk-purchasing agency aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines globally. We urge you to press this idea on your G20 colleagues when finance and health ministers meet in Rome on October 29 and when leaders meet on October 30.

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    We believe that the plan we outline below, which builds on the global vaccines summit convened by US President Joe Biden in September, can bring immediate relief to the poorest countries.

    First, our evidence shows that four polities – the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada – will be stocking by the end of this month 240 million unused vaccines. With a concrete plan agreed by the G7 countries and endorsed by the G20, and with the help of the militaries in these countries, these could be airlifted immediately to the countries most in need. Let us stress that these are unused vaccines, after we take account of the deployment of boosters in high-income countries and the vaccination of 12-15-year-olds, and they come on top of the donations that have already been agreed.

    Second, another 212 million vaccines can be transferred by the end of November.

    Third, a further airlift can be agreed for December of 150 million vaccines, with 280 million more in January and 245 million in February – adding up to a transfer of vaccines and delivery contracts for vaccines totalling 1.1 billion in the next four months.

    These doses would help low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere achieve the currently unattainable World Health Organization vaccination targets of 40% by the end of the year or very soon thereafter.

    Fourth, the World Bank should make........

    © Project Syndicate

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