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Urgent call on the G20 for global vaccine delivery

Urgent call on the G20 for global vaccine delivery

Friday 29 October 2021


This letter, published in the Financial Times on 29 October, 2021, was authored by Gordon Brown and signed by the people below. It has been coordinated by Tortoise, as part of the Arms Race campaign, which we have built in collaboration with Duke Global Health Innovation Centre, Brunswick and COVID Collaborative. And with our thanks to the Financial Times for donating the space.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi
Chair, G20 Meeting
Rome 2021
29 October 2021

Dear Prime Minister Draghi,

We congratulate you on your preparations for the G20 summit on October 30th. We wish to bring to your attention the issue of inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution plaguing our planet, and to ask you to consider the G20 meeting as an opportunity to address this inequitable distribution.

Over six billion doses have been administered worldwide, but seventy per cent of these doses were administered by only a few of the world’s 194 countries, and only two per cent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose.

Vaccines can play a major role in ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all, and only if we collaborate with one another as no one is safe until we are all safe.

We believe that vaccine inequality can be ended, and that high-level action by the G20 will help immensely to do that. By the end of the year, because of over ordering and stockpiling, the G7 nations will be sitting on a large vaccine stockpile of unused doses that will be surplus to their requirements. Meanwhile, only five per cent of Africa is fully vaccinated. Similar challenges exist in large parts of Asia and Latin America. In order to reach the sixty to seventy per cent vaccination levels of high-income countries, the target set by the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) by June next year, 5 billion more vaccines are needed rapidly, including 1.6 billion additional vaccines in Africa. Achieving this goal is within the world’s reach, should high-income countries decide to share their surplus doses immediately. A detailed plan is needed to redistribute available vaccines and switch delivery contracts from countries that have over ordered to COVAX, the international bulk-purchasing agency aimed at equitable access to vaccines globally. We urge you to press this on the G20 when its finance ministers meet in Rome on October 29th and its leaders meet there on October 30th.

We believe that the plan we outline below that builds on the global vaccines summit convened by President Biden in September can bring immediate relief to the poorest countries.

First, our evidence shows that four polities – USA, EU, UK, and Canada – will be stocking by the end of this month 240 million unused vaccines. With a concrete plan endorsed by the G20, and with the help of the militaries in these countries, these could be airlifted immediately to the countries most in need. Let us stress that these are unused vaccines even after we take account of the deployment of boosters and the vaccination of 12-15 year-olds in the west, and they come on top of the donations that have already been agreed.

Second, another 212 million vaccines can be transferred by the end of November. 

Third, a further airlift can be agreed for December of 150 million vaccines, with 280 million more in January and 245 million in February – adding up to a transfer of vaccines and delivery contracts for vaccines totalling 1.1 billion in the next four months.

These doses would help Africa and low-income countries achieve the currently unattainable WHO vaccination targets of forty per cent by the end of the year, or very soon thereafter.

Fourth, the World Bank should make available additional finance immediately to build the capacity needed to administer vaccines quickly and effectively in not only the urban but also the rural areas of low-income countries.

We believe that if all this is agreed, we can meet what the WHO has said is a spring date in 2022 for seventy per cent of all adults to be vaccinated.

We call your attention to what will happen if vaccines are not airlifted to countries in need. Without a detailed plan, 100 million vaccine doses will have passed their use-by date at the end of the year. If we do not act quickly, that figure could exceed 200 million by the end of January 2022.

It would be unethical for all these vaccines to be wasted when globally there are 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 every day, many of which could be averted.

The information from a UK survey is that for the deployment of less than 100 million vaccines, 120,000 lives have already been saved, illustrating the benefits of a mass vaccination campaign in countries where a fourth wave of Covid is happening and escalating numbers of lives are in danger of being lost.

We are in touch with the African Centre for Disease Control (CDC) to assess their needs and the shortfall in vaccine supply. They say that they are still recovering from a long and hard third wave that claimed the lives of 80,000 people since the start of August. Unfortunately, the rate at which lives are being lost is increasing and not decreasing. With each new wave being worse than the previous wave, many experts fear that things will worsen when the impending fourth wave arrives unless vaccines are swiftly provided.

Vaccine inequality also constitutes a threat to us all. In the same logic that you cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire, we are all not safe until everyone is safe. Without urgent and widespread vaccination, variants will continue to arise in unvaccinated regions, and may well spread from there to challenge the vaccine protection achieved hitherto in more vaccinated countries.

As you know, the probability of death increases with increasing poverty. It is estimated that the failure to deliver vaccines to low-income countries will cost the world $5.3 trillion. Low-income countries will bear the brunt of these costs, as they will struggle to recover from the pandemic in the absence of access to vaccines.

When the G20 convenes in Rome, we hope that they will agree that the poorest and the most vulnerable can finally have access to the miracle of life-saving vaccines.

With my best wishes,

Gordon Brown

Philippe Aghion Professor of Economics, Collège de France & LSE

María Elena Agüero Secretary General of Club de Madrid¹

Esko Aho Prime Minister of Finland 1991-1995¹

Rashid Alimov Secretary-General Shanghai Cooperation Organization 2016-2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan 1992-1994²

Farida Allaghi former Ambassador of Libya to EU²

Abdulaziz Altwaijri former Director General of ISESCO²

M Hamid Ansari Vice President of India 2007-2017³

Inger Ashing CEO of Save the Children International

José Antonio Ocampo Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Jan Peter Balkenende Prime Minister of The Netherlands 2002-2010¹

Ki-moon Ban Secretary General of the United Nations 2007-2016¹

Barbara Barrett USA Secretary of the Air Force 2019-2021³

Kaushik Basu President of the International Economic Association; Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-2016)

Erik Berklof EBRD Chief Economist (2006-2015); Professor of Economics, LSE

Suman Bery Chief Economist at Royal Dutch Shell (2012-2016); Director-General of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi

Ana Birchall deputy Prime Minister of Romania 2018-2019²

Patrick Bolton Professor of Finance and Economics, Imperial College London; Professor, Columbia University

Kjell Magne Bondevik Prime Minister of Norway 1997-2000; 2001-2005¹

Thomas Boni Yayi President of the Republic of Benin 2006-2016; former President of the African Union 2012-2013

Wided Bouchamaoui Nobel Peace Prize 2015²

Dumitri Bragish Prime Minister of Moldova 1999-2001²

Lakhdar Brahimi Algeria Foreign Minister 1991-1993³

Gordon Brown Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 2007-2010

John Bruton Ireland Prime Minister 1994-1997³

Robin Burgess Professor of Economics, LSE

Micheline Calmy-Rey President of Switzerland 2007 and 2011¹

Fernando Henrique Cardoso President of Brazil 1995-2003¹

Wendy Carlin Professor of Economics, University College London

Hikmet Cetin Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey 1991-1994²

Lynda Chalker UK Minister for Overseas Development 1989-1997³

Laura Chinchilla President of Costa Rica 2010-2014¹

Joachim Chissano President of Mozambique 1986-2005¹

Bai Chong-en Dean, Tsinghua School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University

Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand 1999-2008¹³

Joe Clark Canada Prime Minister 1979-1980³

Sean Cleary Chairman, Strategic Concepts (Pty) Ltd; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Emil Constantinescu President of Romania 1996-2000²

Diane Coyle Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge

Chester Crocker USA Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs³

Marzuki Darusman Indonesia Attorney General 1999-2001³

Kemal Derviş Minister of Economic Affairs of Turkey (2001-2002); Administrator of UNDP (2005-2009); Senior Fellow Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institute

Hailemariam Desalegn Prime Minister of Ethiopia 2012-2018

Mathias Dewatripont Professor of Economics, Université libre de Bruxelles

Beatrice Weder di Mauro President, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute in Geneva

Philip Dimitrov Prime Minister of Bulgaria 1991-1992¹

Victor J. Dzau President of the National Academy of Medicine

Barry Eichengreen Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Mohamed ElBaradei Egypt Director General International Atomic Energy Agency 1997-2009³

Kevin Ellis Chairman, PwC UK

Maria Fernanda Espinosa 73rd President of the UNGA, former Minister on Foreign Affairs of Ecuador²

Amara Essy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cote d’Ivoire 1990-2000³

Gareth Evans Australia Foreign Minister 1988-1996³

Jeremy Farrar Director of the Wellcome Trust

Jan Fisher Prime Minister of the Czech Republic 2009-2010²

Louise Fréchette Canada Deputy Secretary General, United Nations 1998-2006³

Yasuo Fukuda Prime Minister of Japan 2007-2008¹

Chiril Gaburici Prime Minister of Moldova 2015²

Ahmed Galal Finance Minister of Egypt (2013-2014)

Lawrence Gonzi Malta Prime Minister 2004-2013³

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President of Croatia 2015-2020²

Dalia Grybauskaitė President of Lithuania 2009-2019¹

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim President of Mauritius 2015-2018³

Sergei Guriev Chief Economist of the EBRD (2016-2019); Professor of Economics, Sciences Po

Alfred Gusenbauer Chancellor of Austria 2007-2008¹

Tarja Halonen President of Finland 2000-2012²

Seung-Soo Han Prime Minister of the Rep. of Korea 2008-2009¹

Hilda Heine President of the Marshall Islands 2016-2020¹

Noeleen Heyzer Distinguished Visiting Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Gwen Hines CEO of Save the Children UK

Enrique Iglesias Secretary General of the Ibero-American Cooperation Secretariat 2005-2013; President of the IADB (1998-2005)¹³

Dalia Itzik President of the Knesset 2006-2009, interim President of Israel 2007²

Mladen Ivanic President of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2014-2018²

Philip Jansen Chief Executive, BT

Harold James Professor of European Studies & Professor of History and International Affairs, Princeton University

T. Anthony Jones Vice-President and Executive Director of GFNA¹

Jerry Jones Executive Vice-President, Ethics and Legal Officer at Live Ramp; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Lee Jong-wha Professor of Economics, Korea University; Chief Economist & Head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Asian Development Bank (2007-2013)

Ivo Josipovic President of Croatia 2010-2015¹²

Alan Jope CEO, Unilever

Mats Karlsson Vice President of the World Bank²

Caroline Kende-Robb Former Executive Director, Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel and former Secretary General, CARE International

Kerry Kennedy President Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights²

Horst Köhler President of Germany 2004-2010¹

Jadranka Kosor Prime Minister of Croatia 2009-2011²

Leonid Kuchma President of Ukraine 1994-2005²

John Kufuor President of Ghana 2001-2009

Aleksander Kwaśniewski President of Poland 1995-2005¹

Zlatko Lagumdzija Prime Minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2001-2002¹²

Jack Leslie Chairman, Weber Shandwick

Yves Leterme Prime Minister of Belgium 2008, 2009-2011²

Justin Yifu Lin Chief Economist & Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (2008-2012); Dean of Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University³

Petru Lucinschi President of Moldova 1997-2001²

Igor Luksic Prime Minister of Montenegro 2012-2015²

Ricardo Luna Peru Minister of Foreign Affairs 2016-2018³

Nora Lustig President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association; Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University

Graça Machel Former Education Minister for Mozambique

Mauricio Macri President of Argentina 2015-2019¹

John Dramani Mahama President of Ghana 2012-2017

Susana Malcorra Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship for the Republic of Argentina; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Moussa Mara Prime Minister of Mali 2014-2015²

Dalia Marin Professor of International Economics, TUM School of Management, Munich

Strive Masiyiwa Founder, Econet Wireless

Colin Mayer Professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Don McHenry Ambassador to the UN 1979-1981

Rexhep Meidani President of Albania 1997-2002²

Stjepan Mesic President of Croatia 2000-2010²

Festus Mogae President of Botswana 1998-2008¹³

Amre Moussa Secretary General of the Arab League 2001-2011, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt 1999-2001²

Rovshan Muradov Secretary General Nizami Ganjavi International Center²

Joseph Muscat Prime Minister of Malta 2013-2020²

Mustapha Kamel Nabli Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia (2011-2012)

Piroska Nagy-Mohacsi Programme Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE; Director of Policy, EBRD (2009-2015)

Peter R. Neumann Professor King’s College London; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Bujar Nishani President of Albania 2012-2017²

Olusegun Obasanjo President of Nigeria (1976-1979; 1999-2007)

Ana Palacio Foreign Minister of Spain 2002-2004³

Alan Parker Chairman, Brunswick Group

PJ Patterson Prime Minister of Jamaica 1992-2006¹³

Ted Piccone Chief Engagement Officer at World Justice Project & Senior Non-resident Fellow at Brookings Foreign Policy; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹

Thomas R Pickering USA Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs 1997-2000³

Chris Pissarides Nobel Laureate for Economics (2010); Professor of Economics & Political Science, LSE

Rosen Plevneliev President of Bulgaria 2012-2017²

Richard Portes Professor of Economics, London Business School; Founder and Honorary President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research

Jorge Fernando Quiroga President of Bolivia 2001-2002¹

José Manuel Ramos-Horta President of Timor Leste 2007-2012¹

Hélène Rey Professor of Economics, London Business School

George Robertson UK Secretary General of NATO 1999-2004³

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero President of the Government of Spain 2004-2011¹

Dani Rodrik President-Elect of the International Economic Association; Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard University

Petre Roman Prime Minister of Romania 1989-1991²

José Manuel Romero Vice-President, FRIDE¹

Wolfgang Schüssel Chancellor of Austria 2000-2007¹

Ismail Serageldin Co-Chair Nizami Ganjavi International Center, Vice-President of the World Bank 1992-2000²

Rosalia Arteago Serrano President of Ecuador 1997²

Wei Shangjin Professor of Finance and Economic at Columbia Business School

Jenny Shipley Prime Minister of New Zealand 1997-1999¹

Michel Sidibé Former UNAIDs Executive Director 2009-2019

Javier Solana Spain Secretary General Council of the European Union 1999-2009³

Juan Somavia Presidente Foro de Politica Exterior de Chile¹

Theo Sowa Former CEO of Women’s African Development Fund

Michael Spence Nobel Laureate for Economics (2001); William R. Berkley Professor in Economics & Business, NYU

Devi Sridhar Professor of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh

Joseph Stiglitz Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997-2000); Nobel Laureate for Economics (2001); Professor, Columbia University

Petar Stoyanov President of Bulgaria 1997-2002²

Alexander Stubb Prime Minister of Finland 2014-2015¹

Hanna Suchocka Prime Minister of Poland 1992-1993¹

Boris Tadic President of Serbia 2004-2012²

Jigme Yoser Thinley Lyonchhen Prime Minister of Buthan 2008-2013¹

Eka Tkeshelashvili deputy Prime Minister of Georgia 2010-2012²

Martín Torrijos President of Panama 2004-2009¹

Aminata Touré Prime Minister of Senegal 2013-2014¹

Danilo Türk President of Slovenia 2007-2012¹

Cassam Uteem President of Mauritius 1992-2002¹³

Juan Gabriel Valdés Chile, Foreign Minister 1999³

Vaira Vike-Freiberga Co-Chair Nizami Ganjavi International Center, President of Latvia 1999-2007²

Ernst-Ludwig von Thadden President, Mannheim University (2012-2019); Professor, Economics Department

Filip Vujanovic President of Montenegro 2003-2018²

Leonard Wantchekon Founder & President of the African School of Economics; Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Kevin Watkins Former Chief Executive of Save the Children

Yu Yongding President of the China Society of World Economy (2004-2006); Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, China Academy of Social Sciences

Muhammad Yunus Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2006²

Kateryna Yushchenko First Lady of Ukraine 2005-2010²

Viktor Yushchenko President of Ukraine 2005-2010²

Valdis Zatlers President of Latvia 2007-2011²

¹ Club de Madrid

² NGIC

³ Global Leadership Foundation

Photograph Annice Lyn/Getty Images