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Failure to tackle global vaccine inequality could prolong pandemic, groups warn

Failure to tackle global vaccine inequality at this weekend’s G20 summit could prolong the pandemic, civil society groups have warned.

Campaigners have claimed previous calls to tackle structural problems with vaccine supply have so far been ignored, allowing doses to be “hoarded” by rich nations.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 75 organisations including Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Global Justice Now, urged G20 leaders to unblock global supply shortages by waiving intellectual property and sharing diagnostics, treatments, and vaccine technology.

They are also calling for leaders to put pressure on the UK and Germany to end a dispute, saying it would allow all safe manufacturers approved by the World Health Organisation to produce COVID jabs.

G20 countries represent 62% of the world’s population but have used 82% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines, while only 3.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, campaigners said.

Policy lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Anna Marriot, explained that it was “beyond time to act” and leaders “must not be silenced”.

“It’s an absolute scandal that the G20 has wasted a year ignoring a proposal, backed by the majority of its members, to break vaccine monopolies and ensure the life-saving vaccines can be made around the world to save countless lives,” she said.

“The G20 is turning its back on the thousands of children orphaned every day by this pandemic. G20 leaders who support the waiver must not be silenced by the rich country members like the UK and Germany. It is beyond time to act.”

Another campaigner said in the space of a year “not much has changed except another 3.5 million people lost their lives to COVID-19”.

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Tamaryn Nelson, an adviser on the right to health from Amnesty International, said: “When the G20 met last year, 1.3 million people had died of COVID-19 and leaders vowed to spare no effort to ensure access to vaccines for all people.

“A year later, not much has changed, except another 3.5 million people lost their lives to COVID-19. It’s unconscionable that G20 leaders are not taking sufficient action while tens of thousands of people continue to die every week”.

She added countries who have excess vaccines must redistribute them now and pharmaceutical companies “need to share the know-how needed to scale up global production”.

Officials from the G20 countries are due to meet in Rome ahead of the UN climate summit, COP26, which begins on Sunday.

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