After the announcements of the United States, that they would donate 500 million doses of vaccines, and of the European Union, promising 100 million, this Friday (11) came the turn of the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the donation of an additional 100 million doses. In total, the G7, the forum of industrialized nations which meets until Sunday, is expected to send 1 billion doses to around 100 low-income countries by the end of 2022.
For industry entities, however, it is too little and too late. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates the number of doses needed to immunize 70% of people worldwide at 11 billion and says vaccination must speed up to reduce the risk of new Sars-Cov-2 mutations . If, as politicians and activists endlessly repeat, “no one is safe until everyone is safe,” the number of doses proposed by the G7 is barely enough to get started.
In the calculations of vaccine expert Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor College of Medicine (USA), just to protect Africa, the most backward continent in terms of access to vaccine agents, it would take 2.2 billion doses (until this week, only 2.9% of the African population has received at least one injection). 1.3 billion more would be needed for Latin America and 1 billion more for South East Asia. The G7’s offer fills less than a quarter of this gap.
Commenting on the UK’s announcement this morning, UNICEF also said the volume and speed of donations needed to increase. According to Joanna Rea, director of the UK section of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Covax consortium – which centralizes the procurement and delivery of vaccines to more than 100 countries – urgently needs 190 million doses for children. most vulnerable groups.
There are countries that are far from having completed immunization of the elderly and health professionals, and of the nearly 2.3 billion vaccines already applied worldwide, only 0.3% have been administered to low-income countries – the G7 countries, which account for 10% of the world’s population, consume a quarter.
For Save the Children, another issue is the deadline for the G7 offer – 1 billion is the quantity of doses that are expected to be delivered by September of this year, the organization says. In addition, a statement from around 100 major UK non-governmental entities calls for US $ 66 billion (R $ 336 billion) to ensure logistics for the distribution and application of these vaccines.
This is even more important in the case of the US donation, as vaccines use more complex technology and must be frozen until needed – a structure poorer countries do not have.
The use of the G7 as the stage for announcing its donations also highlighted the difference in strategy between the United States and the European Union. While the former exported before vaccinating most of its population, Europe was one of the main exporters in the world, with 270 million doses, but was behind in its vaccination campaigns: it applied 54 doses per 100 inhabitants, against 65 in the North – Americans.
The “political economy” of giving is also very different. By announcing his offer Thursday (10), Biden made it clear that they were bought by the American government, from an American company, which manufactures on American territory and gives jobs to Americans. In addition, it has positioned itself as a more “friendly” alternative to China, stressing that its vaccines will be given “without return”.
The European Union, in turn, took the multilateral route in May last year, when viable vaccines did not yet exist, by co-sponsoring the Covax consortium, which centralizes the purchase and distribution of vaccination agents. So far this week, nearly 3 billion euros ($ 18.6 billion) have been donated to Covax by the EU, in addition to the 100 million doses announced at the G7 meeting.
With the resources of EU members, the European bloc has transferred a total of nearly 16 billion euros (99.1 billion reais) to global actions for the distribution of tests, treatments and vaccines. Among the major global players, the European Union and its main countries have so far been the most active in the G7, but the path they have chosen makes it difficult to politically charge this effort.
Moreover, while the multilateral track has advantages – by expanding and focusing on the poorest – its governance is more complicated and may end up being less effective. Covax aims to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of this year, but this week it had only shipped 81 million – the United States alone has given almost four times as many injections internally.
The consortium has focused their orders on AstraZeneca, which makes sense when you want to do more with fewer resources to reach more people in underdeveloped countries – the vaccine is cheaper and easier to store and distribute than that of Pfizer, donated by Biden. But, for various reasons, the manufacturer has only shipped 30 million of the more than 200 million doses that should already be available. As a result, Covax only delivered 81 million doses to 129 countries, equivalent to 1% of the population of those countries.
This is where the discussion comes in on how to ensure vaccine production – stifled by the lack of raw materials and production capacity – and how to speed it up. One proposal, brought forward by India and South Africa and endorsed by the United States, France and the European Parliament, is to suspend patents on vaccine agents so that developing countries can manufacture them. According to calculations by the NGO Oxfam, if laboratories gave up their intellectual property rights, the cost of immunization in developing countries would drop from $ 80 billion to $ 6.5 billion (from R 407 to R 33 billion $).
However, the European Commission resists this idea on the grounds that the bottlenecks that limit manufacturing are different: lack of raw material, structure and know-how. The EU executive intends to take a detailed alternative project to be discussed at the WTO (World Trade Organization), but the entity’s decisions are taken by consensus, which requires time for negotiation.
Any announcements regarding intellectual property rights are expected to be made by November, too long a period for immunization specialists. “At the current rate of vaccination, it would take 57 years for poor countries to achieve the same level of protection as the G7,” Oxfam said. Besides intellectual property, other areas in which the G7 powers could collaborate are the trade in supplies and packaging.
On Friday evening, the leaders dined with Queen Elizabeth II, Princes Charles and William and their wives, Camilla and Kate. The Eden Project, where the meeting takes place, is an environmental center, a priority theme for Charles, 72. In a separate meeting with the G7, the prince and leaders of large companies that are part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, to discuss the coordination of actions between the public and private sectors in the fight against climate change.
The G7 dinner will be the Queen’s first meeting with foreign leaders since the pandemic began in late 2019. At 95, she lost her husband Prince Philip two months ago, to whom she had been married for 73 years. . He would be 100 years old this Thursday (10).