Tue | Jan 19, 2021

G-20 summit ends with support for COVID-19 vaccines for all

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 5:29 PMAssociated Press
This handout photo provided by G-20 Riyadh Summit, shows Saudi King Salman (centre) and the rest of world leaders during a virtual G-20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia and held over video conference, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday (AP photo).

(AP)- Leaders of the world’s most powerful nations wrapped up the Group of 20 summit today, vowing to spare no effort to protect lives and ensure affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all people.

The two-day summit of heads of state was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 1.38 million people globally, with the world’s highest death tolls recorded in seven of the G-20 countries. The virus has wiped out hundreds of millions of jobs globally and plunged millions into extreme poverty.

The virus “revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges,” the G-20 said in a final statement that focused heavily on battling COVID, enhancing environmental protections and supporting the global economy.

The group vowed “to spare no effort to protect lives.”

The G-20, which includes the US, India, China, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and others, also stressed the importance of global access to COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests.

“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” the statement said.

The G-20 expressed support for efforts like COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide. The US, however, has declined to join under President Donald Trump.

More support needed

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the virtual summit today that Germany had given financial support to the COVAX initiative, but that more money was needed.

The G-20 statement did not directly address an urgent appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said $28 billion in additional investment is needed for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world, including $4 billion immediately.

There is also concern that countries such as Britain, the US, France and Germany have directly negotiated deals with pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply next year is already reserved.

“Fortunately, there’s now hope for vaccines,” Merkel said, adding that “it is important that not only Europe secures vaccines, as the European Union is doing now, but ... that it is important for the entire world” to have access to vaccines.

She said it is important that COVAX starts negotiating with the producers of potential vaccines based on the money it already has, but that she was somewhat worried those negotiations had not happened yet.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman rounded out the summit, saying the G-20′s final statement “succeeded in sending out a message of hope and reassurance to our citizens and all people around the world.”

“This is what the world has been expecting from us. This achievement today is a culmination of our joint efforts throughout this challenge-fraught year,” the Saudi monarch said.

Saudi Arabia presided over the G-20 this year and was host of the virtual summit, which was originally intended to be held in-person in Riyadh before the pandemic. 

It appeared all G-20 countries agreed to the full content of the final statement, with the exception of Turkey, which was due to give a press conference later today explaining further.

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