ROME - Leaders of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market nations made a commitment at a global health summit in Rome to speed up the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A first of its kind, the international forum held Friday brought together countries with cumulative economies accounting for over 8% of the world’s gross domestic product.
Also represented were pharmaceutical companies who pledged to supply COVID-19 vaccine to low- and medium- income countries. The summit host, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, called those contributions “significant and staggering.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the pledges made during the summit sent a strong message.
“BioNTech, Pfizer, they committed to deliver 1 billion doses this year at nonprofit for low-income countries and lower costs for middle-income countries," she said. "I think this is a very clear public statement. The same goes for 200 million this year from Johnson & Johnson and 100 million this year from Moderna.”
100 million more
Team Europe has also pledged 100 million doses by year's end, von der Leyen said, and she stressed her certainty that the pledges would be honored. Unveiled Friday, the EU-funded Team Europe is an initiative focused on manufacturing and providing access to vaccines, medicine and health technology in Africa.
The summit participants, world leaders and pharmaceutical company representatives signed a Rome declaration with a list of 16 principles that underscored the importance of open supply chains and equitable access to tools to combat vaccination imbalances.
“I think it is groundbreaking and really historical," von der Leyen said of the Rome declaration, "because we have for the very first time the G-20 — that is, the United States and China, the European Union and Russia, India and Latin America, South Africa and many others — all of them committing to basic principles.”
Von der Leyen said what emerged during the summit was a very clear “no” to health nationalism, meaning countries producing vaccines should not keep them for themselves but make them available to those who are not yet able to manufacture their own.
According to the World Health Organization, just 2 percent of the population in Africa has been vaccinated. Von der Leyen said the continent was importing 99 percent of vaccine, and she stressed that that must change.
She also said that Europe would be making available $1.2 billion for an initiative it plans to launch with African partners to develop vaccine production in Africa through regional hubs on the continent.