Dalai Lama, Rowan Williams and other faith leaders in joint vaccine call to G7

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Faith leaders are pleading with Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders meeting in Cornwall this week to end vaccine inequality.

In a joint letter, the Dalai Lama, Christian Aid chair and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and other faith leaders say that vaccine patents should be waived in order to increase production and reduce delays in delivery.

The G7 are meeting as the UK sits on the brink of a third wave fuelled by the Indian variant. India itself has been brought to its knees by Covid-19, and many poor countries have been left behind in the global vaccine drive. 

This inequality is noted by the faith leaders in their letter: "Low-income countries account for less than 1% of the 900 million doses administered to date. More affluent countries account for more than 83%.

"The vaccine gap between the richer and poorer parts of the world is growing by the day."

They say that waiving vaccine patents would boost production while also allowing for the diversification of production sites. 

"This will reduce the period of time before herd immunity is achieved, a period during which potentially dangerous variants can emerge," they said. 

They praised the success of the World Health Organisation's Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), which has delivered vaccines to more than 100 countries, but they warned that progress will stall without further funding. 

"While many G7 countries have been generous in their contribution to ACT-A, it is a matter of grave concern to us that the financing gap for ACT-A is $19bn this year," the letter reads.

"As countries seek to increase vaccine coverage rates, the funding gap will grow unless countries step up support. We need action to lower costs through intellectual property waivers and the sharing of skills and resources with generic producers.

"The G7 has a special responsibility in both of these areas. As a group of the world's largest economies, your financial commitments will make or break ACT-A's ambition.

"We therefore urge you to agree to the burden - sharing formula proposed by Norway and South Africa and sent to 89 countries, under which the G7 would collectively agree to underwrite 63 per cent of the cost of closing the financing gap."