Merkel ‘worried’ over vaccine rollout despite G20 fairness pledge

RIYADH (AFP) – G20 leaders said Sunday they will “spare no effort” to ensure fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines, but the united front was punctured by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who voiced concern about slow progress.

At a virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, the world’s richest nations pledged resources to shore up the pandemic response, and to support poor countries whose economies have been ravaged by the crisis, but offered little detail.

The German Chancellor said she was concerned that no major vaccine agreements had yet been struck for poorer nations, even as rich countries have already bought up huge numbers of doses from pharmaceutical firms.

“We will now speak with (global vaccine alliance group) GAVI about when these negotiations will begin because I am somewhat worried that nothing has been done on that yet,” Merkel said in Berlin.

Her comment came as G20 nations pledged to “address the immediate financing needs” to support the production and fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests. “We will spare no effort to ensure affordable and equitable access for all people,” the group said in their closing communique.

The body of a person who died from COVID-19 is interred as mourners look on, at the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran. PHOTO: AP

At a news conference, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan emphasised that there was consensus among G20 nations that “if we leave any country behind, we will be behind”.

But as richer nations plan their vaccination programmes, with the United States (US) expecting to launch in early December, experts warn that developing countries face hurdles that could deny billions the first proven protection against the virus.

French President Macron called on his counterparts to “go further and faster” by donating doses, forging industrial partnerships and even sharing intellectual property.

Calls are mounting for the G20 to help plug a USD4.5-billion funding gap in the so-called ACT-Accelerator, a mechanism led by the World Health Organization that aims to ensure access to tests, treatments and vaccines for all.