European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the G-20 World Health Summit. Photo by: Remo Casilli / Reuters

A global health summit of the G-20 group of countries on Friday raised new funding and pledges from rich countries to share millions of doses of the vaccine with low-income states. However, the World Health Organization has warned that a “significant funding gapIt remains to properly resource the COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator, the multilateral effort to provide tests, treatments and vaccines around the world.

The European Union pledged to donate 100 million doses by the end of the year, including 30 million each from France and Germany, as well as 15 million from Italy, although details are national leaders meeting next week.

The European Commission has unveiled a initiative worth € 1 billion ($ 1.2 billion) for manufacturing and access to vaccines, drugs and health technologies in Africa. And BioNTech, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna are committed together 1.3 billion doses which will be delivered profitlessly to low-income and middle-income countries at lower prices by the end of this year, with the commission noting that many of them will go through the COVAX vaccine sharing initiative.

“Pharmaceutical companies have had over a year to voluntarily share their intellectual property and expertise, but instead put profits before people at every turn.”

– Anna Marriott, Oxfam Health Policy Officer and People’s Vaccine Alliance Co-Policy Officer

Italy has pledged € 300 million for COVAX, which aims to secure and fund 1.8 billion doses for 92 low-income countries this year. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which helps oversee COVAX, said friday that the new commitments mean it has raised more than $ 7 billion of the $ 8.3 billion it expects from governments and businesses for 2020-2021, by Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit June 2.

Friday’s event, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi chaired in person in Rome, also generated the Rome Declaration, a set of principles and commitments intended to serve as “voluntary guidance for current and future action for global health”.

The most reviewed section was on intellectual property, as Europe continues to temper the enthusiasm of South Africa, India and more recently the United States regarding the suspension of intellectual property rights for processing and COVID-19 vaccines.

Describing short-term options to make more vaccines available, the statement said “to work consistently across the board. [existing World Trade Organization agreements] … And promoting the use of tools such as voluntary intellectual property licensing agreements, voluntary transfers of technology and know-how, and the pooling of patents on mutually agreed terms. “

However, Ms von der Leyen said she had heard leaders of low-income countries say that flexibilities in existing instruments were difficult to use, adding that Europe would present a New Proposal for a “third way” on the subject at the WTO in early June.

Still, Anna Marriott, Oxfam Health Policy Officer and Co-Policy Officer Popular Alliance for Vaccines, criticized the outcome of the summit, stating in a declaration that “pharmaceutical companies have had over a year to voluntarily share their intellectual property and know-how, but instead put profits before people at every turn.”

With rich countries getting the lion’s share of vaccine doses, Marriott noted that COVAX’s actual vaccine stocks “are empty.”

Earlier today, Draghi said, “The differences in immunization rates are staggering,” noting that “nearly 1.5 billion doses of vaccine have been administered in more than 180 countries around the world; only 0.3% of them live in low income countries. “

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This is because the same wealthy G-20 countries behind the Rome Declaration first provided doses to their own citizens. Asked at a press conference whether this model of self-interest would change in the future, von der Leyen replied: “This has to change, and it is changing,” stressing the need to boost production in the whole world.

Draghi replied that Europe had behaved “just a little better” than the world average by continuing to export vaccines produced in Europe to countries which were blocking their own exports. However, he conceded: “We got it, we all made mistakes. Now is the time to mend. “

Eloise Todd of the Pandemic Action Network told Devex that while Friday’s announcements were positive, “a radical change of ambition” was needed before the G-7 group of countries summit in the UK from June 11-13. She said that meant sharing 1 billion doses – a goal too advised Friday by Bill Gates – and fully funds the ACT-Accelerator, which also covers testing and treatment and is currently underfunded by $ 18.5 billion.

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