G20 leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, vowed to strengthen the WHO to fast-track the process for emergency use authorisation for COVID-19 vaccines and to take steps to boost the supply of jabs in developing nations so as to move towards the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022.
In the Rome Declaration, the G20 leaders thanked healthcare and frontline workers, international organisations and scientists for their relentless efforts to cope with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
"Recognising that vaccines are among the most important tools against the pandemic, and reaffirming that extensive COVID-19 immunization is a global public good, we will advance our efforts to ensure timely, equitable and universal access to safe, affordable, quality and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, with particular regard to the needs of low- and middle-income countries," the G20 nations said in their declaration at the Summit.
"To help advance toward the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022, as recommended by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) global vaccination strategy, we will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints," the leaders said.
They also asked their health ministers to monitor progress toward this end and to explore ways to accelerate global vaccination as necessary.
"We will reinforce global strategies to support research and development as well as to ensure their production and swift and equitable distribution worldwide, also by strengthening supply chains and by expanding and diversifying global vaccine manufacturing capacity at the local and regional level, while promoting vaccine acceptance, confidence and fighting disinformation," the G20 nations said.
Briefing the media, India's Sherpa at the G20, Piyush Goyal, said it was decided that the recognition of Covid vaccines which are deemed to be safe and efficacious by the WHO will be mutually accepted subject to national and privacy laws that the countries may have.
"But more importantly it has been agreed that everybody will help to optimize the processes and procedures of the WHO for vaccine approval and emergency use authorisation, and the WHO will be strengthened so that it can do the recognition of vaccines faster," he said.
The G20 leaders also committed to achieving food security and adequate nutrition for all, leaving no one behind.
The G-20 nations, including India, also committed to strengthening actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
The declaration said that the leaders agreed to endeavour to restart international travel in a safe and orderly manner, consistent with the work of relevant international organisations such as the WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization and the OECD.
"To this end, taking into consideration national public health policies, we acknowledge the relevance of shared standards to ensure seamless travel, including testing requirements and results, vaccination certificates and interoperability and mutual recognition of digital applications, while continuing to protect public health and ensuring privacy and data protection," the G20 countries said.
The G20 nations asserted that they would reinforce global strategies to support research and development as well as to ensure the production and swift and equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide, also by strengthening supply chains and by expanding and diversifying global vaccine manufacturing capacity at the local and regional levels.
"We commit to refrain from WTO inconsistent export restrictions and to increase transparency and predictability in the delivery of vaccines," the leaders asserted.
"We reiterate our support to all pillars of the ACT-Accelerator, including COVAX, and will continue to improve its effectiveness," they said.
The G20 nations also said that they will work together towards the recognition of COVID-19 vaccines deemed safe and efficacious by the WHO and in accordance with national legislation and circumstances.
They vowed to strengthen the WHO's ability regarding approval of vaccines, including optimizing procedures and processes, with the aim of broadening the list of vaccines authorized for emergency use (EUL), while continuing to protect public health and ensuring privacy and data protection.
"As a collective G20 effort, and in light of the enduring vaccination gaps, we commit to substantially increase the provision of and access to vaccines, as well as to therapeutics and diagnostics. We will enhance our efforts to ensure the transparent, rapid and predictable delivery and uptake of vaccines where they are needed," the G20 countries said.
"We call on the private sector and on multilateral financial institutions to contribute to this endeavor," they added.
They also stated establishing of a G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force aimed at enhancing dialogue and global cooperation on issues relating to pandemic PPR, promoting the exchange of experiences and best practices, developing coordination arrangements between Finance and Health Ministries, promoting collective action, assessing and addressing health emergencies with cross-border impact, and encouraging effective stewardship of resources for pandemic PPR, while adopting a One Health approach.
"Within this context, this Task Force will work, and report back by early 2022, on modalities to establish a financial facility, to be designed inclusively with the central coordination role of the WHO, G20-driven and engaging from the outset Low- and Middle-Income Countries, additional non-G20 partners and Multilateral Development Banks, to ensure adequate and sustained financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response," the G20 countries said.
The leaders also welcomed multilateral efforts aimed at supporting and strengthening pandemic preparedness and response, including consideration of a possible international instrument or agreement in the context of the WHO, and at strengthening implementation of and compliance with the International Health Regulations 2005.
Acknowledging the importance of swiftly reacting to pandemics, the countries said they will support science to shorten the cycle for the development of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics from 300 to 100 days following the identification of such threats and work to make them widely available.
The G20 is a leading global forum that brings together the world's major economies.
Its members account for more than 80 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of the population of the planet.
(With inputs from PTI)