BRUSSELS – Leaders of the world’s largest economies will adopt a statement on Friday recommending voluntary actions to boost COVID-19 vaccine production, pushing back a push by the United States and other countries on patent waivers, final text says .
Several G20 leaders will speak at the summit, one of this year’s major events to coordinate global actions against the pandemic. US President Joe Biden is not among the speakers, with Vice President Kamala Harris representing the United States at the meeting, a European Commission spokesperson said.
The White House did not immediately comment.
The EU executive, which is co-hosting the summit with the Italian government, is set to announce that it will set up three manufacturing centers in Africa this year to boost long-term vaccine production, an EU official told Reuters.
The official said drugmakers are also expected to announce on Friday that they will provide large quantities of COVID-19 vaccines at cost to poor countries this year in an attempt to correct a global imbalance.
Among the drugmakers expected to announce doses for poorer countries are vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNTech, the official said, adding that at least two other companies are expected to make announcements on Friday.
It is not clear whether the announcements will be for new doses or already promised vaccines. BioNTech declined to comment and Pfizer was not immediately available for comment.
The draft statement, the final version of which was seen by Reuters, does not mention vaccine patent waivers as a tool to address current COVID-19 shortages in poorer countries, according to a previous Reuters report. .
Earlier in May, the Biden administration joined with India, South Africa and many other developing countries to seek temporary patent waivers for COVID-19 vaccines, in the hope that this would stimulate production and allow a more equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
EU countries and other vaccine-producing countries have opposed the patent waiver and instead called for the removal of US trade barriers that they see as the main bottleneck preventing the increase in global vaccine production.
The draft document recommends as short-term options to stimulate the production of “voluntary intellectual property licensing agreements, voluntary transfers of technology and know-how and the pooling of patents on mutually agreed terms. “.
It also indicates that solutions should be found in existing global agreements that do not include patent waivers.
Leaders should also recognize “the importance of closing the funding gap for ACT-A,” the text reads, referring to ACT-Accelerator, a World Health Organization (WHO) tool for distributing vaccines. , drugs and COVID-19 tests. worldwide.
An earlier version of the findings pledged to fully fund the program, which still lacks $ 19 billion to meet its goals.
Leaders say one option to help poorer countries quickly is to share vaccines that rich countries have already purchased, but there is no firm commitment in the final text.
The WHO co-led COVAX program, which is dedicated to equitable global distribution of vaccines, is mentioned as an option to deliver donated doses to countries.
A spokesperson for Gavi, a vaccine alliance that co-leads COVAX, said the best way to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the world is to “share the doses with COVAX, while ensuring a fully funded program. “.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot)