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G20 health summit: Europe wants to build up vaccine production in Africa

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The European Union intends to finance the development of vaccine production facilities in Africa in the long term with one billion euros. By 2040, 60 percent of vaccine production is to be produced regionally, including in South Africa, said Chancellor Angela Merkel after the G 20 health summit under the Italian presidency. With this and other promises, Europeans want to counter the blatant inequality in the distribution of vaccines.

The member states of the European Union want to deliver a total of 100 million doses of vaccine to poorer countries this year. Germany contributes 30 million of these, said Merkel. In addition, the Chancellor announced another 100 million euros as a contribution to the vaccine pool, the initiative “Access to Covid Tools” -Accelerator (ACT-A), which aims to improve the global distribution of tests, drugs, protective clothing and vaccines via the Covax vaccine pool should take care of.

At the summit, the two ACT-A chairmen, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, concluded that the ACT-A fund is still missing 18.5 of the total estimated 33 billion euros. The amount seems huge, but it is negligible if you calculate the costs that would arise if you do nothing more, said Solberg.

Because far too little vaccine has arrived in poor countries despite the projects – 90 percent of the vaccine produced has so far been vaccinated in the G20 countries – the vaccine manufacturers have now committed to doing more. Biontech / Pfizer announced at the summit that they would deliver a billion cans this year – at cost price for the poorest and at low prices for middle-income countries. Johnson & Johnson wants to contribute 200 million and a further 100 million Moderna.

At the press conference after the summit in Rome, journalists wanted to know whether the companies will stick to the goals they have set themselves. Host Mario Draghi said that if the companies kept their promises, other considerations would become less significant. The Italian Prime Minister is likely to have expressed diplomatically that the companies could counter the increasingly louder demands for a temporary suspension of their patent claims by delivering more vaccines.

Both the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, and the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, called the suspension of patent claims proposed by the WTO of South Africa and India indispensable.

Ghebreyesus warned that 13,000 people died of Covid yesterday alone. “Today there are about as many again, and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.” Okonjo-Iweala called technology transfer and also the transfer of intellectual property a moral and economic imperative and called on the heads of state to at the negotiating table to come to formulate a corresponding text.

While after the U-turn of the US administration on the patent issue, countries like China and Russia, according to the specialist magazine Lancet Signaling readinessto discuss the suspension of patent protection, the members of “Team Europe” excluded the topic at the summit or spoke of a “distraction” from the actual goal. However, the pressure could continue to grow if the vaccine continues to be scarce due to the booster vaccinations that have already been planned in the industrialized countries.


(bme)

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