Global leaders adopt agenda to overcome COVID-19 crisis and avoid future pandemics

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Leaders of the G20 committed today to a series of actions to accelerate the end of the COVID-19 crisis everywhere and better prepare for future pandemics, at a summit co-hosted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as G20 chair.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “This very first G20 summit on health marks the beginning of a new chapter in global health policy. World leaders strongly committed to multilateralism and global cooperation in health. This means, no export bans, keeping global supply chains open and working to extend production capacity everywhere. If we live up to these principles, the world will be better prepared for pandemics.”

The G20 underlined the importance of increased and diversified manufacturing and recognised the role of intellectual property in ensuring equity, both through voluntary licensing and knowledge transfer, as well as in the context of the flexibilities provided by the TRIPS agreement. In that respect, the EU intends to facilitate the implementation of those flexibilities, in particular the use of compulsory licenses including for exports to all countries that lack manufacturing capacity.*

The EU will come forward with a proposal in the WTO focusing on:

  • clarifying and facilitating the use of compulsory licences in crisis times like this pandemic;
  • supporting the expansion of production;
  • trade facilitation and limiting export restrictions.

All G20 members also acknowledged the need to address the funding gap of the ACT-Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, and launched by the WHO, the European Commission, France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And agreed to extend its mandate to the end of 2022.

The leaders further agreed on the need for early warning information, surveillance and trigger systems, which will be interoperable. These will cover new viruses, but also variants. They will enable countries to detect much quicker and to act to nip in the bud outbreaks, before they become pandemics.

G20 clearly stressed the need to ensure equitable access to vaccines and to support low and middle-income countries.

Team Europe’ contribution

‘Team Europe’ presented to the summit concrete contributions to respond to this call, both to cover immediate needs and to build capacity in the medium term.

The European Commission has worked with industrial partners, which are manufacturing vaccines in Europe, to make available vaccine doses for low and middle-income countries, rapidly.

BioNTech/Pfizer (1 billion), Johnson & Johnson (200 million) and Moderna (around 100 million) pledged 1.3 billion doses of vaccines, to be delivered to low-income countries at no profit, and to middle-income countries at lower prices by the end of 2021, many of which will go via COVAX. They committed more than 1 billion doses for 2022.

Team Europe aims at donating 100 million doses of vaccines to low and middle-income countries until the end of the year, in particular through COVAX.

In addition to covering current vaccine needs, Team Europe will also invest to equip Africa to produce vaccines itself. Africa imports today 99% of its own vaccines. Team Europe has launched an initiative to boost manufacturing capacity in Africa and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies. The initiative, backed by €1 billion funding from the EU budget and European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank, will cover investments in infrastructure and production capacity. But also in training and skills, supply chains management, regulatory framework.

Under the initiative, a number of regional production hubs will be developed, covering the whole African continent.

Background

The Global Health Summit, co-hosted on 21 May by the European Commission and Italy as chair of the G20, has brought together G20 leaders, heads of international and regional organisations, and representatives of global health bodies, to share lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and develop and endorse the ‘Rome Declaration’ of principles. 

The principles agreed should be a powerful guide for further multilateral cooperation and joint action to prevent future global health crises, and for a joint commitment to build a healthier, safer, fairer and more sustainable world.

The Summit builds on

  • The Coronavirus Global Response, a pledging marathon that last year raised close to €16 billion from donors worldwide for universal access to coronavirus treatments, tests and vaccines and support for global recovery.
  • The existing work of multilateral institutions and frameworks, notably the World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations.
  • Other health initiatives and processes, including those taking place in the G7 and G20.

The EU has been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle the COVID-19 crisis everywhere, helping to mobilise funding in support of the ACT-Accelerator through the Coronavirus Global Response and as a top contributor to the COVAX Facility, with over €2.47 billion.

COVAX is the global initiative leading efforts to ensure universal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines and for the EU is the key channel to share vaccines.

The EU has invested €4 billion in COVID-19 research and production capacity to develop vaccines that are now being delivered to the EU and countries across the world. The EU has exported as many vaccines as it has received for its citizens, around 200 million.

Team Europe has mobilised over €40 billion to support partner countries worldwide tackle the health emergency, strengthen key sector such as health, water and sanitation and measures to mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.

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