UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference on Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.

Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call on the leaders of the world’s largest economies to support efforts to accelerate the development of new vaccines.

Johnson, who will chair a virtual meeting with G-7 leaders on Friday, is expected to outline an ambition to cut the time it takes to develop new vaccines by two-thirds to 100 days.

A Downing Street statement said developing a coronavirus vaccine in around 300 days is a “great and unprecedented global achievement”.

“By further reducing the time it takes to develop new vaccines against emerging diseases, we can potentially prevent the disastrous health, economic and social effects of this crisis,” the government said.

The Coalition for Innovations to Prepare for Epidemics first proposed this 100-day goal earlier this year.

“The development of viable coronavirus vaccines offers the tempting prospect of a return to normal, but we must not rest on our laurels,” Johnson said ahead of the meeting.

“As leaders of the G7 today we have to say never again,” he added, calling on the coalition of leaders to use “collective ingenuity” to ensure that “vaccines, treatments and tests are ready to fight future health threats”. “”

Johnson has asked UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance to work with international partners including the World Health Organization and CEPI, along with industry and science experts, to help the G-7 accelerate the development of vaccines, treatments and tests to advise.

At Friday’s session, Johnson will also confirm the UK will share the majority of all future excess coronavirus vaccine doses with Covax. This is a global initiative jointly led by WHO and CEPI, among others, and aims to provide low-income countries with fair access to coronavirus vaccines.

On Friday, the EU announced that it would double its contribution to Covax to 1 billion euros (1.2 billion US dollars), while Germany pledged a further 900 million euros for the initiative, according to a statement by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch.

Unequal guidelines for Covid vaccines

A Lancet paper released late last month highlighted that the 2 billion doses of vaccine allocated to low-income countries under the Covax Accelerator Program in 2021 represented only 20% of the vaccine needs of the countries participating in the program.

The paper followed a warning from the World Health Organization’s top official that the world was on the verge of “catastrophic moral failure” due to unequal Covid vaccine policies.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Jan. 18 condemned what he called the “first-me” approach from high-income countries, saying it was self-destructive and endangered the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Almost all high-income countries have prioritized the distribution of vaccines to their own populations. The international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres has described what we are seeing today in terms of global access to vaccines as “far from an image of justice”.

The meeting on Friday will be the first in the UK’s “G-7 Presidency” in 2021. It will also be President Joe Biden’s first major multilateral engagement.

Johnson had drawn up a five-point plan to prevent future pandemics at the United Nations General Assembly last year. This will be the focus of the UK G7 Presidency on Friday.