G7 COVID-19 vaccine pledge 'is not enough', says WHO chief

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that ten times as many doses of COVID-19 vaccine than that promised by leaders at the G7 to the developing world will be needed to end the pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Saturday that the G7 nations would pledge one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 100 million coming from the UK and 500m from the U.S.

But Tedros said that that to truly end the pandemic, the goal needed to be to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by next year when the G7 – the world’s richest nations – will meet in Germany.

“To do that, we need 11 billion doses,” he said.

Tedros added that it was essential for countries to temporarily waive intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, something that found support in Washington but not in Europe.

Tedros reiterated his target of vaccinating 30% of the population of every country by the end of 2021, which would require 100 million doses in June and July and 250 million more by September.

While almost half of the combined population of the G7 nations has received at least one dose of vaccine the worldwide figure is less than 13%. In Africa, it’s just 2.2%.

‘A worthwhile investment’

International Monetary Fund economists recently estimated it would cost $50 billion to vaccinate 60% of the world’s population by the middle of next year and that achieving that goal would generate $9 trillion in additional economic output by 2025.

Those appealing for wealthier nations to do more to make vaccines available worldwide argue it would be a worthwhile investment in human capital.

“If we do this, and everyone’s saying it’s the deal of the century, about 60% of those resources need to come from wealthy countries in the G-7,’’ said Robert Yates, director of the global health program at Chatham House, a London-based public policy think tank.

Countries like the United States and Britain secured supplies of multiple COVID-19 vaccines while they were still in development, hoping to guarantee shipments of any successful candidates. That left them with enough doses to inoculate their entire populations two or three times over after regulators approved a number of shots.

They are now under pressure to provide shots for low-income countries immediately and not wait until they have vaccinated younger age groups in their own countries. COVID-19 poses the greatest risk to older people and those with underlying health conditions, who account for the vast majority of those who have died from the disease.