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G20 summit: Trump wants vaccine first for US as world leaders urge fair access

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Some of the leaders of G20 are seen on a screen before the start of the virtual meeting, hosted by Saudi Arabia, in Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Leaders of the 20 biggest economies have pledged to pay for a fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines, drugs and tests around the world, amid global concerns that the pandemic would further deepen divisions between the rich and the poor across the world.

The leaders attending the two-day virtual summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia on Saturday, said they need to make sure that that poorer countries are not left out, vowing to extend debt relief to them.

“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivize innovation,” the leaders said in a draft G20 communique seen by Reuters.

“We recognize the role of extensive immunization as a global public good,” read the draft.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks that they need to “work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples.”

Projection of a "Family Photo" for the annual G20 Leaders' Summit onto Salwa Palace in At-Turaif, in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, November 20, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron said for his part that the world economies “need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives.”

The European Union (EU), meanwhile, urged G20 leaders quickly to put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics.

“At the G20 Summit I called for $4.5 billion to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement & delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

“We need to show global solidarity,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz take part in a video conference during the G20 Leaders' Summit in Berlin, November 21, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the summit that Berlin was contributing more than 500 million euros ($592.65 million) to the effort, according to a text of her remarks.

Merkel also urged other countries to do their part.

Russia offers its vaccine to other nations

Russia, which has approved a coronavirus vaccine in August, vowed to provide it to other countries.

President Vladimir Putin told the summit that Moscow was ready to distribute its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other nations.

Russia said earlier this month that the vaccine had a 92% effectiveness rate at preventing the coronavirus.

Putin also said his country is in the process of creating a second and third vaccine in response to the coronavirus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference during the G20 Leaders' Summit 2020, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 21, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

China to step up cooperation

China has also said it was ready to step up global coronavirus vaccine cooperation.

President Xi Jinping told the gathering that Beijing “is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines.”

“We will fulfill our commitments, offer help and support to other developing countries, and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use and can afford,” he said.

Xi also called for better international coordination on policies to facilitate the movement of people.

He said China would propose the creation of a mechanism by which travelers’ coronavirus test results were recognized internationally through digital health codes.

Vaccinate America first: Trump

US President Donald Trump, who was also attending the summit, did not participate in a session on global response efforts to the pandemic preparedness.

He has once again turned his back on the global coalition fighting the disease, saying that he wants to “Vaccinate America first!”

The US president told the G20 leaders that he wants American people to be the first to receive vaccinations against the coronavirus.

He claimed that two vaccines, made by Moderna and a partnership between BioNTech and Pfizer, were the work of US companies.

BioNTech, however, is a German company, which retains ownership of the scientific technology that the vaccine is based upon.

The two announced on Friday that they had applied for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Once approved, doses of the vaccine will likely be available only for frontline healthcare workers and other higher-risk groups by the end of the year.

Health experts say enough doses for wide distribution to the general public would be ready by spring or summer 2021. 

The US, the world's hardest-hit country, has now recorded more than 12 million cases of infection and over 255,000 coronavirus related deaths.

The total number of people infected with the virus around the globe is now 58,143,122, according to John Hopkins University data.

Some 1,380,436 have also lost their lives to the virus since first emerged in China late December,

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