UK PM Boris Johnson to call on G-7 support for 100-day target to develop new vaccines

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) at Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.

Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call on leaders of the world’s largest economies to support efforts to speed up the development of new vaccines.

Johnson, who will chair a virtual meeting with leaders of the G-7 on Friday, is expected to outline an ambition to cut the time to develop new vaccines by two-thirds to 100 days.

A Downing Street statement said the development of a coronavirus vaccine in around 300 days was a “huge and unprecedented global achievement.” 

“By reducing the time to develop new vaccines for emerging diseases even further, we may be able to prevent the catastrophic health, economic and social repercussions seen in this crisis,” the government said. 

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations first proposed this 100-day goal earlier this year. 

“The development of viable coronavirus vaccines offers the tantalising prospect of a return to normality, but we must not rest on our laurels,” Johnson said ahead of the meeting. 

“As leaders of the G7 we must say today: never again,” he added, urging the coalition of leaders to harness “collective ingenuity” to ensure there are the “vaccines, treatments and tests to be battle-ready for future health threats.” 

Johnson has asked the U.K. government’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance to work with international partners, including the World Health Organization and CEPI, along with industry and scientific experts to advise the G-7 on speeding up the development of vaccines, treatments and tests. 

In Friday’s meeting, Johnson is also set to confirm that the U.K. will share the majority of any future surplus coronavirus vaccine doses with Covax. This is a global initiative co-led by the WHO and CEPI, among others, aiming to provide low-income nations with equitable access to coronavirus vaccines.

Last month, the World Health Organization’s top official warned that the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” because of unequal Covid vaccine policies. 

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Jan. 18 condemned what he described as a “me-first approach” from high-income countries, saying it is self-defeating and leaves the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk. 

Almost all high-income countries have prioritized vaccine distribution to their own populations. International aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres has described what we see today in terms of global vaccine access as a “far cry from a picture of equity.” 

Friday’s meeting will be the first in the U.K.’s 2021 “G-7 Presidency.” It will also be President Joe Biden’s first major multilateral engagement. 

Johnson had outlined a five-point plan to prevent future pandemics at the United Nations General Assembly last year. This will be the focus of the U.K.’s G-7 presidency on Friday.

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