More than 100 former world leaders called on the Group of Seven (G-7) countries to pay for the majority of the world's COVID-19 vaccines in order to protect from the threat posed by virus variants.
In a letter seen by The Guardian, former world leaders, including British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, appealed to the G-7 countries to cover the cost of vaccinating people against the coronavirus worldwide — an estimated $30 billion a year.
The G-7, made up of major world powers, is meeting this Friday in Cornwall, England, the first in-person summit since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“The year 2020 witnessed a failure of global cooperation, but 2021 can usher in a new era. No one anywhere is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe everywhere,” the former leaders wrote.
They argue that the cost involved is affordable and essential to stopping new COVID-19 variants from undermining current vaccination efforts.
“Support from the G7 and G20 that makes vaccines readily accessible to low and middle-income countries is not an act of charity, but rather is in every country’s strategic interest, and as described by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] is ‘the best public investment in history,’ " they added.
"For the G7 to pay is not charity, it is self-protection to stop the disease spreading, mutating and returning to threaten all of us," Brown added in the letter. "Costing just 30 pence [$0.43] per person per week in the UK, is a small price to pay for the best insurance policy in the world."
Other prominent figures who added their names to the letter include former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Irish President Mary Robinson and founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson.
They also pointed to a survey commissioned by Save the Children that found 79 percent of U.K. residents said they believe the G-7 should pay to make the world safe. They also called on the G-7 countries to spearhead dose-sharing, licensing agreements and patent waivers in order to have pharmaceutical companies share their technology and skills and support vaccine production in other countries.
Current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to similarly call on the G-7 countries to fund the world's vaccination effort.
“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history,” Johnson said in a statement on Sunday.
In the U.S., President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE is currently facing rising pressure to do more for the world's vaccine supply. Although the U.S. has committed to providing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries around the world with the promise of more, advocacy groups are arguing that this is simply not enough.
The groups shared in the world leaders' concerns that the delayed distribution of vaccines could allow virus variants to spread and prolong the pandemic.