Today’s big question

How much would Covid vaccines for the entire world cost?

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair among more than 100 former leaders calling for G7 to fund a global vaccination programme

The world’s richest countries should foot most of the bill for vaccinating the entire global population against Covid-19, according to a letter signed by 230 international leaders. 

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are among more than 100 former prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers who have co-signed the written plea to the current leaders of the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada to pay two-thirds of the estimated $66bn (£46.5bn) cost. 

The letter, seen by The Guardian, has been sent ahead of a three-day G7 summit being hosted by Boris Johnson in Cornwall from Friday. The newspaper reports that the powerful nations are also being urged to “lead the way on dose-sharing, voluntary licensing agreements and temporary patent waivers”, in order to boost vaccine production worldwide and help prevent new, and potentially more deadly, strains of the virus from spreading. 

Under the proposals, the UK would contribute about 5% of the total cost, paying around $3bn (£2.1bn) over the next two years. That would amount to 30p per week per British citizen in return for “the best insurance policy in the world”, former Labour leader Brown told the BBC’s Today programme

The UK is “perfectly capable of paying this sum”, said Brown, who pointed out that countries are set to receive a grant of $21bn (£15bn) each from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a bid to prop up Covid-stricken economies. 

And for the G7 nations to use some of that money to vaccinate people in low-income countries “is not charity, it is self-protection to stop the disease spreading, mutating and returning to threaten all of us”, he added. 

The IMF has also been pushing for a mass vaccination drive, outlining plans to inoculate at least 40% of the global population by the end of this year and at least 60% by July 2022. A report published by the Washington D.C-based organisation in January estimated that “faster progress on ending the health crisis will raise global income cumulatively by $9trn” by 2025.

But “much now depends on the outcome of this race between a mutating virus and vaccines to end the pandemic”, the IMF warned.

While the UK has one of the most successful vaccination programmes in the world, with more than three-quarters of adults now having received at least one dose, many other countries are lagging behind. Just 2% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have been vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The proposal for G7 nations to help fund speedier rollouts has widespread support among citizens of the member states, according to a survey commissioned by Save the Children. Of more than 1,000 people polled in the UK, 79% supported the plan, with similar results from surveys in the US, France, Germany and Canada.

As world leaders head to the UK for the G7 summit in Cornwall, host Johnson yesterday pledged to urge leaders to “rise to the greatest challenge of the postwar era” by “vaccinating the world by the end of next year”.

However, while the US, France, Germany, Italy and Japan have all announced how many doses they each plan to donate to the global vaccine-sharing programme, Covax, “the UK and Canada are yet to put figures on their planned contributions”, the BBC reports.

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