Finance and health ministers from the world's 20 biggest economies (G20) said on Friday they would take steps to ensure 70 percent of the world's population is vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-2022 and created a task force to fight future pandemics.
They could not reach agreement on a separate financing facility proposed by the United States and Indonesia, but said the task force would explore options for mobilising funds to boost pandemic preparedness, prevention and response.
"To help advance toward the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 percent by mid-2022 ... we will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints," the G20 ministers said in a communique seen by Reuters.
The previous goal had eyed vaccinating 70 percent of the world's population by the autumn of 2022.
"We establish a G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force aimed at enhancing dialogue and global cooperation on issues relating to pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, promoting the exchange of experiences and best practices, developing coordination arrangements between Finance and Health Ministries, promoting collective action, assessing and addressing health emergencies with cross-border impact and encouraging effective stewardship of resources," the statement said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The ministers said they were setting up the new body because the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed "significant shortcomings" in the world’s ability to coordinate its response.
They pledged to support "all collaborative efforts" to provide access to safe, affordable, quality and effective vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and personal protective equipment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
To reach the vaccination goals, they said they would work to boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries, while removing constraints on supply and financing, but gave no specific details.
They also called for boosting the resilience of supply chains through voluntary technology transfer hubs in various regions, such as the newly established mRNA Hubs in South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, and through joint production and processing arrangements.
The call for a voluntary mRNA technology transfer means that talks on the idea of a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies - originally proposed by South Africa and India and now championed by the United States - remain stuck at the World Trade Organisation.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the G20 had not discussed patents.
"We have a lot of vaccines available worldwide but the reality is there are still areas in the world where the share of those vaccinated is very low," Scholz told journalists on the sidelines of the summit.