The 7 Most Important Moments From the Global Health Summit in Rome
World leaders announced new commitments to vaccine equity — but it's not enough to end the pandemic.
Leaders of the G20 met in Rome on Friday for the Global Health Summit — hosted in partnership between Italy, which holds the G20 Presidency this year, and the European Commission — to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and pledge new commitments to help ensure COVID-19 vaccine doses reach the populations that need them most.
At the summit, G20 countries agreed to the Rome Declaration, which reaffirms continued multilateral support for preparedness, prevention, detection, and response to the pandemic, as well as appropriate and sustainable funding for collaborative global response efforts, especially the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Major pharmaceutical companies pledged to produce more COVID-19 vaccines at not-for-profit pricing, while several G20 countries committed additional funding to the ACT-Accelerator and its vaccine pillar, COVAX, as well as pledges to share more vaccine doses with low- and middle-income countries.
But Friday’s commitments only scratch the surface, particularly in terms of dose sharing and pharmaceutical pledges.
The pandemic has currently claimed over 3.4 million lives around the world. Dangerous variants of the coronavirus — some of which spread more easily and lead to more serious infections — have traveled between countries and have the potential to render approved COVID-19 vaccines less effective.
For this reason, ensuring vaccine equity is the No. 1 priority for leaders around the world to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere.
At Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World earlier this month, government leaders, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies announced donations of dollars and doses to promote vaccine equity. More than $302 million and 26 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were mobilized to help low-income nations vaccinate their populations, but it’s not enough to end the pandemic.
“Globally, over 80% of all doses administered to date have been in wealthy nations — but just 0.4% in the poorest nations,” said Hugh Evans, founder and CEO of Global Citizen. “This is morally unacceptable, as we know we have the means to do otherwise.”
The momentous task of getting COVID-19 resources to low-income nations can only be followed through with fair and urgent responses from wealthier countries and the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.
Ahead of the Global Health Summit, Global Citizen called on leaders of the G20 to make new commitments to vaccine sharing and funding the ACT-Accelerator, which is the only global mechanism capable of getting tests, treatments, and vaccines to countries in need.
While there’s still more work to be done, here are seven of the most important moments from the Global Health Summit that help answer the call for great vaccine equity.
1. Pharmaceutical companies announced COVID-19 vaccine doses at lower costs.
Great news from @pfizer at the #GlobalHealthSummit: 2B+ doses for low-income countries at not-for-profit pricing & at low cost for middle income by 2022! Now we need more transparency on delivery dates & how much will go to whom. This is needed for a global vaccines roadmap!— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson announced they will provide 2.3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for low-income countries at not-for-profit pricing, as well as for middle-income nations at “low costs,” by 2022.
For middle-income nations, for which the costs of COVID-19 vaccines are still too high, Team Europe will provide additional financing to make sure doses go where they are needed most.
In order to have a truly global vaccines roadmap, however, we need more transparency from pharmaceutical companies on when these vaccines will be delivered, and whether they are new or additional to existing production volumes and contracts.
2. The European Commission announced it would share an additional 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this year.
Team Europe pledged to share another 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from its supply with countries in need this year — the most important commitments came from Germany and France (30 million doses each) and Italy (15 million doses). Other wealthy nations — such as the United Kingdom and Canada — must answer the call and make a commitment to vaccine dose sharing.
3. Italy pledged funding for COVAX and health and climate initiatives, as well as committed to sharing its supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
More great news from Rome! €300M from Italy for COVAX + €200M for health & climate in poor countries. PLUS, 15M doses to be shared by end of 2021 + support to increase vax supply. Grazie mille @Palazzo_Chigi 🇮🇹— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
As president of the G20 this year, Italy stepped up to support vaccine equity. In addition to announcing €300 million in funding for COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, Italy is pledging €200 million to support health and climate initiatives in lower-income nations.
Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi said that his country would share 15 million COVID-19 doses from their supply by the end of 2021. He also said that the G20 needs to address the debt crisis threatening low-income countries, as well as use the special drawing rights (SDR), the International Monetary Fund’s foreign exchange reserve assets, to help countries in need.
4. The European Commission will invest in regional production hubs for COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
.@vonderleyen: #TeamEurope & Africa will launch regional production hubs with €1B investments. The EU will also make a proposal to the #WTO on compulsory licensing to increase supply ASAP. #GlobalHealthSummit— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Commission will make a €1 billion investment in regional production hubs for COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, which includes bringing mRNA technology to the continent. At the moment, 99% of the COVID-19 vaccine supply in Africa is imported.
One of the biggest setbacks to increasing supply of COVID-19 vaccines is the safeguarding of patents by pharmaceutical companies. For this reason, von der Leyen also said that the EU will submit a proposal to the World Trade Organization in June to speed up compulsory licensing and allow vaccines to be manufactured by others.
5. France committed to sharing doses and dollars by the end of 2021.
Merci @EmmanuelMacron & France! 30 MILLION doses to be shared by end of 2021 and €500M for #ACTA! And yes, no dose should be wasted. We need to prioritize vaccinating the most vulnerable, wherever they are! #GlobalHealthSummit— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
President Emmanuel Macron announced at the Global Health Summit that France would share 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2021, growing its initial VAX LIVE pledge to share at least 500,000 vaccine doses by mid-June through COVAX. Macron also said that France would provide €500 million in funding for the ACT-Accelerator to deliver COVID-19 tests, treatments, and other resources to countries in need.
6. Germany pledged 30 million vaccine doses.
Danke @RegSprecher & Germany for the 30 MILLION additional doses to be shared by end of 2021 that chancellor Merkel announced at the #GlobalHealthSummit. After contributing 🇩🇪’s fair share for #ACTA this is an important step to #EndThePandemic everywhere!— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would share 30 million doses of the country’s supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021, which is Germany’s first dose sharing commitment.
Global Citizen is calling on all high income countries to share at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by September.
7. The Netherlands pledged €52 million to fund the ACT-Accelerator.
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said that his country would give €52 million to help fund the ACT-Accelerator, providing COVID-19 resources to low-income nations.
While government leaders at the Global Health Summit pledged new commitments to sharing COVID-19 vaccines and making monetary donations, more needs to be done before the pandemic will end. For one, we’re still $17.5 billion away from filling the funding gap of the ACT-Accelerator.
.@GlblCtzn CEO @HughCEvans is calling on world leaders to take 3 key actions to help end the pandemic. Join him by raising your voice in support of COVID-19 vaccines for all 👉https://t.co/nyGDhXMlPEpic.twitter.com/eoHLLxf3dL— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) May 21, 2021
Countries must develop a global roadmap to coordinate delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and inoculate at least 70% of the world’s population as soon as possible. There also needs to be greater transparency surrounding the timelines of dose sharing commitments, as well as production and delivery from pharmaceutical companies.
Many countries have pledged to share COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, but they must give vaccine doses now, while infection rates and deaths continue to climb in nations such as India and Brazil. The Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and NGOs, including Global Citizen, are calling on higher-income nations — in particular, the G7 — to share 1 billion vaccine doses by September and 2 billion doses by the end of the year.
Next week, EU member states will gather at the European Council to discuss the priorities of the European Union. They must use the opportunity to commit to greater cooperation and support multilateral efforts to end the pandemic before any more lives are needlessly lost.