Coronavirus vaccine producers promised billions of doses for poor countries at a G20 health summit today, where leaders vowed to expand access to jabs as the only way to end the pandemic.

The bosses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson announced they would supply around 3.5 billion vaccine doses at cost or discount to low- and middle-income countries this year and next.

Meanwhile the European Union pledged to donate 100 million doses and invest in regional manufacturing hubs in Africa to reduce the continent's reliance on imports.

The summit was billed as an attempt to learn lessons from the pandemic, which has killed more than 3.4 million people globally since the virus emerged in late 2019.

While many rich countries are enjoying a slowdown in infections thanks to vaccination drives, many others are still battling fresh surges.

"As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the summit.

"We must vaccinate the world - and do it fast."

In Washington, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report emphasised the same message, with a $50 billion (€41 billion) plan to end the pandemic focused heavily on expanding vaccines.

It noted that as of last month, less than 2% of people in Africa had been vaccinated while more than 40% of the population in the United States and more than 20% in Europe had received at least one dose.


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'Vaccine technologies'

The summit will end with a "Rome declaration" on the guidelines to avoid another pandemic, from investment in global healthcare systems, improved data sharing and surveillance of human and animal diseases.

But it is not expected to endorse the contentious idea of a temporary global waiver on patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

Instead, the leaders will advocate the use of other tools such as voluntary licensing agreements and technology transfers, EU officials said.

India and South Africa have for months led calls to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on vaccines to boost production, a position recently backed by Washington but which has been met with scepticism in Brussels.

In a video message, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated Beijing's support for a waiver and urged the World Trade Organization and other international institutions to make an "early decision".

"China supports its vaccine companies in transferring technologies to other developing countries and carrying out joint production with them," he added.

'Share dollars and doses'

In an announcement at the summit, Pfizer promised two billion vaccine doses and Moderna "up to" 995 million by the end of 2022 at cost or discount to poorer nations.

Johnson & Johnson unveiled a deal with the Covax vaccine-sharing programme for 200 million doses this year, and said it was discussing the "potential supply" of an additional 300 million for 2022.

China meanwhile promised $3 billion in international aid over the next three years to support the fight against Covid-19 as well as economic recovery.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said their countries would each supply 30 million doses of vaccines to poorer nations.

"We do not have the right to stockpile vaccines in certain countries while others do not have enough," Mr Macron said in a video message.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris vowed her country would "keep donating excess supply as it is delivered to us".

"We need to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible, in every nation."

The summit, involving 20 heads of state and government alongside organisations such as the World Health Organization, the African Union and the World Bank, is expected to result in 16 guiding principles for the future.

A influential report warned earlier this month that the catastrophic scale of the pandemic, which has killed over 3.4 million people worldwide, could have been prevented.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.