G20 leaders meeting in Rome must put aside greed and selfishness and ensure the fair global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, said Amnesty International ahead of this year’s G20 Summit in Rome, Italy, which takes place from 30-31 October.
Last November, leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies held their annual G20 Summit online, with a focus on ensuring Covid-19 vaccines would be made available to everyone. However, one year on, the most powerful countries have failed to protect the lives of millions of people, choosing to hoard vaccines, resulting in a predictable and utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for the rest of the world. Rich countries are sitting on an estimated 500 million doses right now.
Australia is among the countries buying up available vaccine doses at rates far greater than is required to fully vaccinate the population. There has been a lack of transparency around these deals to effectively hoard vaccines at the expense of less wealthy countries, including our Pacific neighbours. By the end of 2021, Australia will have nearly 20 million surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:
“The rollout of vaccines began last December – bringing hope to a world that had been crippled by Covid-19 and saving millions of lives. However, since the first vaccine was administered, the death toll has risen from 1.3 million people to nearly 5 million in 2021 due to gross inequality in access.
“The sheer selfishness and greed behind these deaths is unfathomable. While G20 countries enjoy vaccination rates of around 63%, only 10% of the population in low and lower-middle income countries have been able to get vaccinated. What have these leaders been doing for the past year but hoarding and actively contributing to vaccine scarcity along with Big Pharma? The millions of deaths show a staggering disregard for human life, a disturbing moral acceptance that profit trumps lives, and a blatant neglect of their global obligations.”
In 2020, G20 countries pre-ordered and bought the vast majority of Covid-19 vaccines before these vaccines had even been approved. Many countries stockpiled enough doses to be able to vaccinate their populations several times over. In 2021, they continue to hoard surplus doses, preferring to sit on them, rather than share them with those who need them most.
On 22 September 2021, Amnesty International launched a global campaign to demand that the World Health Organization’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population of low and lower-middle income countries is met by the end of the year. The 100 Day Countdown: 2 billion Covid-19 vaccines now! calls on governments with surplus stocks to redistribute these doses to other countries by the end of the year.
“While some countries have pledged to redistribute vaccines, many still haven’t provided a clear timeline– with some only committing to share vaccines by September next year,” said Agnès Callamard.
“Vaccines must be shared now. It’s in the best interests of everyone, especially if we want to ensure borders can reopen and our global economy can recover in a fair way. The clock is ticking. It’s time to take action now.”
Leading up to the G20, Amnesty International, together with members of the Peoples Vaccine Alliance, will be calling on G20 leaders to redistribute vaccines now, upping the pressure with a media stunt expected to be held in Rome, Italy, on 29 October.