G7 Hiroshima summit to put vaccine assistance on agenda

The framework is intended to eliminate the so-called vaccine divide between rich nations and poorer ones, sources said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Japan News


AP file photo A girl receives a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Kathmandu in November 2021.

May 8, 2023

TOKYO – A framework to promptly provide low-income nations funds for vaccine purchases and other forms of assistance in preparation for a future pandemic will be on the agenda at the G7 summit in Hiroshima later this month.

The envisaged framework is intended to eliminate the so-called vaccine divide between rich nations and poorer ones, a situation that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic, sources said.

In September last year, members of the Group of 20 and other parties launched a pandemic fund worth more than $1.6 billion at the World Bank to tackle new infectious diseases. The fund is anticipated to be mainly used for pandemic prevention, such as training of medical workers and infectious disease surveillance.

At the G7 Hiroshima Summit, attendees are expected to agree on the need to set up a new framework for responses following a pandemic breakout. A discussion on such financial assistance will be held during the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting, which will be held from Thursday through Saturday in Niigata, to gain understanding from participants.

The specific design of the envisaged system is expected to be discussed at a meeting of G20 finance and health ministers, which will be held as early as by the end of this year. The meeting will consider a plan to expand the pandemic fund’s usage and scale to enable it to be used for urgent assistance, such as vaccine purchases.

During the height of the novel coronavirus’ spread, it took a long time until funds were extended to low-income countries, which had difficulties securing vaccines on their own. As a result, vaccination rates remained low in places such as Africa.

Figures updated Saturday by Our World in Data, compiled by University of Oxford researchers among others, show 70-90% of people who live in G7 nations have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. These figures remain in the 10-20% range in some African countries, such as Cameroon, Congo and Mali.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on April 25 that the G7 summit will focus on prevention of, preparedness for and response to public health crises.

“It will be necessary for G7 countries to proactively contribute to sustainably securing funds,” Kishida said.

G7 leaders are also expected to discuss building a system to respond to future pandemics and other emergencies at the top level, as well as what is tentatively called the Hiroshima Vision, which will put together how to allow low-income nations and other places to equitably obtain vaccines, treatment and testing kits.

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