A G7 health ministers summit in the United Kingdom wrapped up today with an agreement on standards to improve clinical trials and support for vaccine donations when situations allow, as pressure grew for developed countries to step up dose donations.
In other global developments, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said it is now experiencing its third surge, as some Asian countries continue to battle outbreaks and Australia detects cases involving another variant.
G7 ministers affirm support for pandemic battle
Health ministers from G7 countries met yesterday and today at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, ahead of the main G7 meeting next week in Cornwall. Global groups that are pushing for more and bigger contributions to the COVAX initiative are hoping for announcements of financial support and vaccine supply donations from the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries.
Yesterday, the United States announced a plan to share 25 million doses, including 19 million to be distributed through COVAX, a program led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners to more equitably distribute COVID vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.
Ahead of the meeting, the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund issued a joint statement calling on countries that are anticipating excess doses in the coming months to release supplies as soon and as transparently as possible.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock said today that vaccinating children would take priority over donating vaccine doses, according to Reuters. And today, UK health regulators joined a handful of other countries—including the United States and Canada—in approving for emergency use the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
In an open-letter appeal to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday ahead of the main G7 meeting, Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar, MD, PhD, and UK UNICEF executive director Steven Waugh urged Johnson to show historic leadership and begin sharing vaccines with the world.
They urged him to share at least 20% of available doses between now and August and to push G7 nations to commit to sharing 1 billion doses this year.
Surges in Africa
The DRC’s health minister yesterday said the country is now into its third wave of COVID activity, with Kinshasa as the main hot spot, according to Reuters. The day before, the country reported 243 cases, the most since March. The more transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant is reported to be spreading in Kinshasa.
Yesterday, the WHO’s African regional office warned that a number of African countries are reporting abrupt increases in cases and that the region is falling behind in the global pace of COVID vaccination.
In other developments:
- Australia’s Victoria state has now detected cases involving the Delta variant, heightening worries about the threat of greater spread. A spurt of cases in the Melbourne area, which has triggered a 2-week lockdown, involved the Kappa (B1617.1) variant of interest.
- Colombia is moving forward with loosening its restrictions in many parts of the country, even as it reports record daily highs for cases and deaths and intensive care units in some of the country’s biggest cities near capacity, according to Reuters.
- In Asia, Taiwan’s cases are still in the triple digits with hospitals experiencing pressure, and Myanmar is reporting a rise in cases in an area bordering India, raising concerns about Delta variant spread.
- The global total has passed 172 million cases and is now at 172,211,739, with at least 3,701,747 deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.