ROME, May 22 (Xinhua) -- World leaders agreed at a virtual summit Friday to help poor and developing countries get access to coronavirus vaccines. Analysts say the long-term relevance of the talks may be to leave the world more prepared for future health emergencies.
The just-completed Global Health Summit, jointly hosted by Italy, which holds the Group of 20 (G20) Presidency, and the European Union (EU), resulted in ambitious pledges from members and drug companies to do more to help fight the coronavirus pandemic in the poorer parts of the world.
In the group's final communique, known as the Rome Declaration, leaders called for promoting voluntary licencing, technology and know-how transfers, and patent pooling so as to boost vaccine production.
We "underline that sustained investments in global health, towards achieving Universal Health Coverage with primary healthcare at its center, One Health, and preparedness and resilience, are broad social and macro-economic investments in global public goods, and that the cost of inaction is orders of magnitude greater," the declaration read.
During the summit, Pfizer/BioNTech agreed to make one billion low-cost coronavirus vaccine doses available to poor countries by the end of 2021, while Johnson & Johnson said it would provide 200 million doses of its vaccine.
Meanwhile, China pledged to provide an additional 3 billion U.S. dollars in international aid over the next three years to support COVID-19 response and economic and social recovery in other developing countries, while the EU said it would spend one billion euros (1.2 billion U.S. dollars) to help underwrite the development of vaccination manufacturing centers in Africa.
"As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together. We must vaccinate the world, and do it fast," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at the conclusion of the talks.
In addition to the financial pledge, China also proposed setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation for vaccine-developing and producing countries, companies and other stakeholders to explore ways of promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
According to Fabrizio Pregliasco, virologist and senior researcher at the University of Milan, the steps that were taken at the summit will set the stage for a more coordinated response to future global health emergencies.
"Of course we have to fight this pandemic," Pregliasco told Xinhua. "But we also have to be ready for the next pandemic, the next global health crisis. What is happening now in regards to international cooperation, attention to the challenges of poor countries, the One Health concept, and transparency, will be part of the strategy the next time."
According to Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, president of Italy's International Affairs Institute (IAI) and a former diplomat who worked in Italian embassies in Algiers, Paris, and Beijing, the big challenge emerging from the summit will be to turn the promises into action.
"If we don't address the pandemic in poorer countries, it will be impossible to resolve it on a global level," Nelli Feroci said in an interview with Xinhua. "The steps agreed to by the G20 are very important but it is more important that there is a follow-through and that action is taken." Enditem