Did you think the G7 countries would save the world by generously distributing their COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries?
Unfortunately, the mountain gave birth to a mouse. If there was one glaring question on the agenda of the great powers, it was it.
At a meeting in the UK over the weekend, leaders from the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Britain, Japan and Canada jointly pledged to provide 1 billion doses for developing countries.
At first glance, the figure may seem impressive. Except there are nearly 8 billion people on Earth, and most of us will need two doses. Therefore, this is clearly not enough.
The G7, which accounts for about a third of world GDP, solves much less of the global problem than its economic weight.
It is all the more annoying that the statements made at the last summit are hopelessly vague. Neither delivery schedule nor terms have been specified. And the statements over the weekend smelled of an annoying recyclable odor.
Take Canada, for example, which has pledged to provide 100 million doses to help global immunization efforts. Of these, 87 million are not even doses, but money to buy them. However, this money has already been announced in the framework of the international initiative ACT Accelerator. Nothing new under the sun.
13 million additional doses? These are vaccines that Canada refuses to receive through the international COVAX mechanism. We’re talking more about basic decency than generosity. Apart from 13 million doses, this is … very small. This week alone, Canada will receive 9.5 million!
Obviously, Canada has a hard time pledging doses when it does not have production capacity. Except that the country has ordered more doses per capita under bilateral agreements than any other country on the planet.
If Ottawa complies with all the terms of these agreements, vaccines could fall out of our ears in the fall. What are we going to do about it? The mystery remains unsolved.
Beyond doses and dollars, global immunization faces huge logistical challenges. How will vaccines be regularly delivered to every country in the world when most of the commercial aircraft are still on the ground?
How to Maintain the Cold Chain in Remote Sub-Saharan Africa? How to overcome doubts about vaccination in poor countries? Where can you find the thousands of vaccinators needed to immunize every person in the world?
G7 members are desperately silent on these issues.
While G7 democracies refuse to play their leadership role, two rule-of-law countries have thrown themselves into the hole: China and Russia.
On Monday, UQAM Montreal Institute for International Studies actually welcomed Agatha Demarais, director of global forecasts at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Mme Demare recalled the extent to which Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are using “vaccination diplomacy” to increase their visibility in the international arena and increase their influence in developing countries.
Such “generosity” is clearly not selfless.
His body has documented how Russia, by providing Bolivia with the COVID-19 vaccine, began negotiations over access to some of the country’s strategic mineral resources.
Focused on vaccinating their populations, Canada and other wealthy countries have been slow to play their part in the international arena. An emptiness that harms their own aspirations and global balance … and that risks being a very harshly judged story if nothing changes.