galbraith11_Gerardo VieyraNurPhoto via Getty Images_sputnik Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The G7 Vaccine Charade

The US and Europe are offering low- and middle-income countries crumbs, so that they can protect their billionaires, their pharmaceutical lobbies, and their campaign contributions. This has created an opening for China and Russia – and both are rushing into the breach.

AUSTIN – In a recent essay on Samantha Power, President Joe Biden’s new administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times writes – correctly – that Power’s “first big test … lies in what America does to help vaccinate the rest of the world against COVID-19.” And Power herself is quoted as saying that, “It’s about a very, very tangible, results-oriented agenda.”

Results seemed to follow. At the G7 summit, Goldberg duly reports, Biden announced that the US would contribute 500 million vaccine doses for use in “low- and middle-income countries.” According to Goldberg, this “spurred other countries to step up their contributions,” ensuring “a billion doses by 2022.”

Except that it didn’t. According to the World Health Organization, the actual new commitment was for 870 million additional doses, not a billion, “with the aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021.” In other words, the “aim” would be to get “at least” 435 million additional vaccine doses to the COVAX facility (the international mechanism established to ensure vaccine access in poorer countries) “by 2022.” Even if all billion come in over the course of 2022, Agnès Callamard, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, has called it a “drop in the ocean,” made of “paltry half-measures and insufficient gestures.” As Gavin Yamey of Duke University summed up the outcome for a Lancet working group, the “rich countries behaved worse than anyone’s worst nightmares.”

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.



Register for FREE to access two premium articles per month.