World leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations are set to commit at their summit to share at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with struggling countries around the world – half the doses coming from the United States and 100 million from the United Kingdom.
Vaccine sharing commitments from US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the stage for the G7 leaders’ meeting in southwest England, where leaders will pivot Friday from opening greetings and a “family photo” directly into a session on “Building Back Better From Covid-19.”
“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that the G7 nations would join the US in outlining their vaccine donation commitments at the three-day summit. The G7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
The leaders meeting in the resort of Carbis Bay hope to energize the global economy as well. On Friday they are set to formally embrace a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent on corporations, seconding an agreement reached a week ago at a meeting of their finance ministers.
The minimum is meant to stop companies from using tax havens and other tools to avoid taxes.
It represents a potential win for the Biden administration, which has proposed a global minimum tax as a way to pay for infrastructure projects, in addition to creating an alternative that could remove some European countries’ digital services taxes that largely hit US tech firms.
For Johnson, the first G7 summit in two years – last year’s was scuttled by the pandemic – is a chance to set out his vision of a post-Brexit “Global Britain” as a midsized country with an outsized role in international problem-solving.
It’s also an opportunity to underscore the UK-US bond, an alliance often called the “special relationship.”
After a meeting with Biden that both sides hailed as a success, Johnson said he prefers the term “indestructible relationship.”
The official summit business starts Friday, with the customary formal greeting and a socially distanced group photo. Later the leaders will meet Queen Elizabeth 2nd and other senior royals at the Eden Project, a lush, domed eco-tourism site built in a former quarry pit
The G7 leaders have faced mounting pressure to outline their global vaccine-sharing plans, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced. In the US, there is a large vaccine stockpile and the demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.
Biden said the US will donate 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and previewed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere. The commitment was on top of 80 million doses Biden has already pledged to donate by the end of June.
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Johnson, for his part, said the first 5 million UK doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year. He said he expected the G7 to commit to 1 billion doses in all.
“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus,” Johnson said in a statement, referencing a slogan that he and Biden have both used.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the US commitment and said Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year’s end.
At a news conference, he said time was of the essence.
‘No strings attached’
Biden predicted the US doses and the overall G7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the US doses come with no strings attached.
“Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions,” Biden said. “We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, that’s it.”
He added, “Our values call on us to do everything that we can to vaccinate the world against Covid-19.″
The US commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global Covax alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most.
The Pfizer agreement came together with some urgency in the last four weeks at Biden’s direction, said a senior White House official, both to meet critical needs overseas and to be ready for announcement at the G7. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, added that the Biden administration was to apply the same wartime posture applied to the vaccine rollout in the US to its effort to share vaccines globally.
Biden said the 500 million US-manufactured vaccines will be shipped starting in August, with the goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022. A price tag for the doses was not released, but the US is now set to be Covax’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its single largest funder with a $4 billion commitment.
The well-funded global alliance has faced a slow start to its vaccination campaign, as richer nations have locked up billions of doses through contracts directly with drug manufacturers. Biden’s move, officials said, was meant to ensure a substantial amount of manufacturing capacity remains open to the wealthy nations.