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UN envoy Gordon Brown urges G7 countries to fund global COVID vaccination push

People wait for a COVID-19 vaccination at a state dispensary in Guwahati, India, on April 29, 2021.
© UNICEF/Biju Boro
People wait for a COVID-19 vaccination at a state dispensary in Guwahati, India, on April 29, 2021.

UN envoy Gordon Brown urges G7 countries to fund global COVID vaccination push


Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Monday for the world’s richest nations to underwrite COVID-19 vaccination in poorer countries, highlighting the need to raise some $60 billion over the next two years. 

Speaking during the regular briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO), and ahead of next month’s G7 summit, Mr. Brown, who is the UN’s Special Envoy for Global Education, said inaction will only lead to greater global division. 

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A life or death choice 

“By our failure to extend vaccination more rapidly to every country, we are choosing who lives and who dies”, he warned. 

“And I say the world is already too deeply divided between rich and poor to allow a new unbridgeable divide to become entrenched between the world’s vaccinated who live, and the under-vaccinated who are at risk of dying.” 

As Prime Minister, Mr. Brown hosted the G20 summit in 2009, where the world's major economies committed an additional $1.1 trillion to address the fallout from the global financial crisis,  He is now on a campaign to galvanize support to demand that the G7 “deploy its wealth to end the disease.”  

More COVID-19 cases were reported in the past two weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic, with India and Brazil accounting for half, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists. 

“The G7 countries are the world’s economic and political leaders. They’re also home to many of the world’s vaccine producers. We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leaders of these countries”, he said. 

Shared threat, shared solutions 

Tedros reported that the landmark global collaboration developing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide, known as the ACT Accelerator, remains $19 billion underfunded. Up to $45 billion will be needed next year to inoculate most adults. 

“We face a shared threat that we can only overcome with shared solutions”, he said. “Sharing financial resources, sharing vaccine doses and production capacity, and sharing technology, know-how and waiving intellectual property.” 

Formula for ‘burden-sharing’ 

For Mr. Brown, mass global vaccination is not an act of charity, but “the best insurance policy for the world”.  Though costing billions now, the result will be “trillions of additional economic output, made possible when trade resumes in a COVID-free world.” 

The $60 billion in funding is required not only for vaccines, but also for vital medical supplies, diagnostics and medical oxygen “currently and shamefully in short supply in India and elsewhere”. 

He provided a formula for rich countries to shoulder the cost, based on national income, current wealth and benefits from the resumption of trade. 

The breakdown would see the United States covering 27 per cent, Europe 23 per cent, Japan six per cent and the UK five per cent. Australia, Canada and South Korea would pay two per cent each.   

“I say to the G7…you have the power and the ability to pay for nearly two-thirds of the cost and secure a historic breakthrough by agreeing an equitable burden sharing formula that could cover global health provision”, he said. 

Mr. Brown added that the world’s major economies, the G20, could cover more than 80 per cent of the cost and donate urgently needed vaccine doses, while the world’s 30 richest countries could pay for more than 90 per cent. 

“And the same burden-sharing formula could also be applied so that instead of the familiar pandemic cycle of panic now and neglect later, the world invests now when there is a cash shortfall, and for the future in pandemic preparedness …to ensure that even if future outbreaks happen, pandemics become preventable.”