EU opens global G20 summit with Covid vaccine pledge

May 21, 2021 | 17:00
The EU pledged Friday to donate 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer countries, kicking off a global summit on how to recover from the pandemic -- and avoid a new one.
eu opens global g20 summit with covid vaccine pledge
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrive for the Global Health Summit at the Villa Doria Pamphili in Rome on May 21, 2021, to discuss on how to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and how to prevent it happening again. The EU is expected to announce a new initiative to support local manufacturing in Africa as the leaders emphasise the importance of scaling up vaccination efforts, including through the Covax vaccine-sharing programme. Tiziana FABI / AFP

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement alongside Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, the country which as the current chair of the G20 is co-hosting the meeting.

World leaders are expected to use the summit to emphasise the importance of scaling up vaccine efforts across the world, through donations, boosting manufacturing and avoiding national exports bans.

The EU will announce a new initiative to support local manufacturing in Africa, officials said, as von der Leyen said vaccines must reach "everybody, everywhere".

"Team Europe aims at donating at least 100 million doses to low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021," she announced.

Speaking alongside her in Rome, Draghi added: "As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together.

"We must vaccinate the world -- and do it fast."

The final declaration is not however expected to endorse the contentious idea of a temporary global waiver on patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

Instead, the leaders will advocate the use of other tools such as voluntary licensing agreements and technology transfers, officials said.

India and South Africa have for months led calls to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on vaccines to boost production, a position recently backed by Washington but which has met with scepticism in Brussels.

The summit, which with the exception of Draghi and von der Leyen is taking place virtually, is expected to result in 16 guiding principles for the future.

A influential report warned earlier this month that the catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 3.4 million people worldwide, could have been prevented.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.

G20 leaders will pledge Friday to invest in global healthcare systems and staff, to better exchange of data and improve surveillance of human and animal diseases, EU and Italian officials said.

Both Brussels and Rome emphasised the diverse cast -- from Brazil and India, to the United States, Turkey, China, Russia and Singapore -- as proof that the world can come together to deal with Covid-19.

Some 20 heads of state and government and 12 international organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), African Union, WTO and World Bank, are taking part in the summit.

AFP

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