French President Emmanuel Macron has called on rich Western nations to transfer 3-5 percent of their Covid-19 vaccines to Africa and developing countries elsewhere, ahead of Friday’s G7 summit. The presidency confirmed that France would share five percent of its stock with Africa – even if other rich nations do not join in.
In an interview with London-based Financial Times, President Macron argues that failure to share vaccines will worsen global inequality. He says it is out of the question to leave the poorer nations by the wayside.
Transferring between “3-5 percent of the vaccines we have in stock to Africa…won’t delay [our vaccination effort] by a single day, given the way we use our doses”, he told the paper.
His comments were published on Thursday, a day ahead of the virtual G7 leaders meeting hosted by Britain.
Macron said German Chancellor Angela Merkel supports a pan-European initiative, adding that he also hoped to convince the United States.
Marcron calls on Europe to share its vaccine doses, and vows to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to transfer technology to accelerate global production and to be transparent on pricing — “we will apply all the pressure we can”. Will it be enough? https://t.co/lmIbvPL3I2 – Katerini T. Storeng (@KStoreng) February 18, 2021
A presidential spokesperson in Paris has said that even “if the others don’t join in, France will give 5 percent of its vaccine stock” to poorer countries, either free of charge or at a very low price.
The French leader expressed alarm that vaccine campaigns had not even got underway in some poor countries while rich countries had already vaccinated millions.
Canada, for example, is estimated to have sufficient doses of coronavirus vaccine to treat its entire population five times over.
Unprecedented acceleration of inequality
“We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and we are not starting in poor countries.
“It’s an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality and it’s politically unsustainable too because it’s paving the way for a war of influence over vaccines,” Macron said.
The French president conceded in early February that China had scored early “diplomatic successes” in distributing vaccines to other countries which could be seen as “a little bit humiliating for us as [Western] leaders”.
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But he added that this is a “test of multilateralism. It’s not about vaccine diplomacy. It’s not a power game, it’s a matter of public health.”
The limits of vaccine diplomacy
Hungary and Serbia are set to use the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine in Europe, while Beijing is also donating or selling to countries around the world from Pakistan to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and West African nations.
Russia too is selling or donating its Sputnik V vaccine abroad.
Speaking in favour of a Western-led multilateral approach at an event with the Atlantic Council think-tank on 4 February, Macron said he believed that “in the very long run we can be more efficient”.
Virtual summit, real tensions
1/2 PM @BorisJohnson will encourage G7 leaders tomorrow to give more to global vaccinations as he commits the UK to:
– Offer surplus vaccines to #COVAX to support developing countries
– Work with #G7 partners & @CEPIvaccines to cut vaccine development time by 2/3 to 100 days pic.twitter.com/lucY6v3H9f
– G7 UK (@G7) February 18, 2021
The leaders of G7 nations (France, US, UK, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan) meet against a background of tension not least because of EU efforts to strike trade deals with China before the Biden administration gets up to speed.
Summit host Boris Johnson is expected to propose fast-tracking vaccine production, notably for distribution to developing nations.