Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Australia would “play its part” in combating COVID-19 worldwide, announcing during the G7 Summit in the UK on June 11 that the nation would provide 20 million vaccine doses to developing countries in the Asia-Pacific.
"COVID-19 does not respect borders, and the pandemic is not a problem confined to any one nation,” Morrison said. “The more people we can safely vaccinate around the world, the more we stop the spread and devastation of this disease.”
Australia’s pledge forms part of a plan by leaders at the summit to deliver 1 billion doses to in-need nations by the end of 2022.
Of the billion committed, at least 870 million will come from donating excess doses.
Australia’s latest pledge builds on previous commitments.
Over half a billion dollars have already been committed to the nation’s three-year Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative, which helps supply equitable vaccines and technical support to the Indo-Pacific.
A further $130 million has been donated to vaccine sharing partnership COVAX, which aims to deliver more than 1.8 billion doses worldwide, specifically targeting at least 114 million people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Australia pledged a separate $100 million for vaccine sharing through its Quad Partnership with Japan, India and the United States.
Almost 300,000 Australian-manufactured vaccines have already been distributed to the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
Equitable global vaccine access is a priority for 🇦🇺. Today, @ScottMorrisonMP announced Australia will commit an additional 20m doses for developing countries in our region and a partnership with @UNICEF to support more people across the #IndoPacific.https://t.co/3VGvkwuYy7— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) June 12, 2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also revealed the UK would donate 100 million locally produced vaccines, sharing 5 million doses by the end of September, while US President Joe Biden pledged 500 million Pfizer doses to the world, which he said were given with “no strings attached” and with no “pressure for favours or potential concessions.”
While the pledges, and the overall promise of 1 billion doses, has been welcomed, campaigners and activists say it falls well short of what is truly required to end the pandemic.
The UK commitment has been particularly criticised.
The World Health Organization claims 11 billion vaccine doses are still required, with WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying "many other countries are now facing a surge in cases — and they are facing it without vaccines.”
"We are in the race of our lives, but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line,” he said in a UNICEF statement. “We welcome the generous announcements about donations of vaccines and thank leaders. But we need more, and we need them faster."
The Western Pacific is currently amid the highest peak of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
Cases likewise continue to surge across Africa, where just 0.6% of the continent's population have been fully vaccinated.
"UNICEF thanks G7 member states for their significant pledges and continued support,” Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, said. “However, much work remains to continue to ramp up both the amount and the pace of supply to the rest of the world, because when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, our best interests and our best natures align.”
Fore added: “This crisis will not be over until it is over for everyone.”