Lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines should be considered “global public goods”, the UN chief told journalists on Friday, covering the G7 Summit of leading industrialized nations taking place in the United Kingdom.
Speaking via videolink in London, Secretary-General António Guterres said there was no other way of defeating a virus that spreads across developing countries “like wildfire” and risks mutating, other than through equitable, mass vaccination, adding that shots need to be “available and affordable to all”.
“That is not only a matter of fairness and justice but it's also a question of efficiency”, he said, pointing out that mutations “abide by Darwin’s laws of evolution” – meaning that the worst viruses tend to survive, multiply and eventually disable the vaccines.
Vaccination programmes so far, have been “unequal and very unfair”, the UN chief said.
Reasons for hope
Mr. Guterres said he was encouraged by the announcement made ahead of the G7, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) together with the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), regarding a $50 billion programme to support vaccination delivery in developing countries.
He was also heartened by the recent announcements of the United States and United Kingdom to donate more than half a billion doses to nations least able to afford them.
Mr. Guterres welcomed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that he expects the G7 to provide a billion pledged doses by the end of the summit.
At war with the virus
“We are at war” with the coronavirus, he said, that continues to cause “tremendous suffering” and destroy the global economy.
To defeat the virus, we must “boost our weapons”, he added, calling for a “global vaccination plan”.
The Secretary-General spoke of his proposal for vaccine-producing countries to come together in an emergency task force supported by WHO, the vaccine alliance GAVI and international financial institutions to define and implement a plan.
“We need really those who have the power…to organize an effective response to COVID and the only way to be effective…is guaranteeing that everybody will be vaccinated sooner rather than later”, he said.
G7’s climate action
The UN chief said climate action was his other priority for the first in-person G7 meeting since the pandemic began, as the world’s average temperature continues to rise, almost to the point where the international scientific community says is “the limit” to avoid “catastrophic developments”.
“To a certain extent, we are on the verge of the abyss and…we need to make sure that the next step is in the right direction”, he said calling on the G7 to create a global net zero coalition for 2050; to support adaptation for the resilience of populations and societies; and to finance developing countries so they may target mitigation and address the climate change impacts already upon them.
Paving the way forward
In closing, the Secretary-General expressed hope that the G7 meeting “will help pave the way for new and important decisions in the future”.
“I think it is absolutely essential to guarantee that” through the COP 26 [UN climate conference] in Glasgow, he said, warning that it may prove to be “the last opportunity” to make the right decisions.