Vials labelled “AstraZeneca, Pfizer - Biontech, Johnson&Johnson, Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine” are seen in this illustration picture taken May 2, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
NDO – The outstanding outcome of the recently concluded Global Health Summit was the Rome Declaration that emphasised the importance of multilateral cooperation and commitment from rich countries to increase support in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as raise the supply of vaccines to poorer countries. The summit called on the international community to continue sharing, committing and acting only towards the goal of beating the pandemic.
The one-day virtual event, hosted by G20 president Italy and the European Commission, was an opportunity for leaders of the world’s largest economies together with guests, international and regional organisations, and global health authorities to discuss and share experiences in response to the COVID-19 epidemic and promote action to help the world overcome the current serious health crisis, as well as prepare cooperation mechanisms to prevent and deal with possible pandemics in the future.
Taking place in the context of the pandemic still ragingand the issue of equal access to vaccines against it not having been guaranteed, the summit emphasised the important role of multilateral cooperation, uniting and sharing, and acting together in the fight against the epidemic.
The Rome Declaration was adopted with a high level of consensus, calling for a change in approach, promoting the spirit of voluntary sharing, in order to improve thecollective ability to respond, prevent and coordinate responses through multilateral and global cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, as well as preventing the risk of future health crises.
Sharing the view that the crisis caused by COVID-19 has exposed the world's weakness in cooperating to prevent and respond to medical emergencies, the G20 leaders underscored the urgent need to promote comprehensive strengths, leverage the expertise and capabilities of scientists, institutions and healthcare platforms to facilitate data sharing, licensing agreements, and voluntary technology transfers to expand production, increasing the supply of vaccines, a vital tool in the fight against the current pandemic. The summit also highlighted the role of multilateral mechanisms and programmes led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), such as COVAX or the global Access to COVID19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).
Another positive result of the summit was the specific commitment from rich countries to increase support for poor countries in their fight against the epidemic. A number of G20 and European Union (EU) members, along with pharmaceutical companies, have pledged to work to increase vaccine supply. Notably, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will provide 3.5 billion doses of vaccines at their original price and the EU 100 million doses of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The EU also announced plans to invest US$1.2 billion to build vaccine production centres in Africa. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is providing US$50 billion for vaccine development, with the goal of vaccinating at least 40% of the world's population this year and 60% by the end of next year. Many countries such as France, Germany, China and others also announced aid and vaccine plans, supporting developing countries to respond to COVID-19 and recover from the pandemic.
However, in the context that inequality in access to vaccines is still hindering joint efforts to control the disease globally, the summit failed to reach consensus on a proposal to remove barriers related to the intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine. The Rome Declaration only called for voluntary licensing related to patents and technology transfer, in order to facilitate the expansion of production and increase global supply. The declaration also did not specify a commitment to funding WHO programmes that are under-resourced.
Anyway, with the strong commitments to promote a common effort, the Global Health Summit is still considered to have achieved its goal, agreeing on supportive initiatives, promoting sharing and mutualaction among countries. Through the Rome Declaration, the G20 countries have shown their responsibility to the international community, as well as upholding the basic principles of multilateralism, while promoting international cooperation.
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