Rich nation leaders and big drugmakers have promised to do more to bridge the startling divide in fighting COVID-19, with an increased flow of badly-needed vaccines to poorer regions as China's President Xi Jinping pledged $3 billion in aid over the next three years to help developing countries recover and proposed setting up an international forum to promote fair distribution of vaccines.
Lavishly-funded mass inoculation campaigns are helping many wealthy countries slash infections, but few shots have reached less developed nations where the virus still rages sometimes uncontrollably, drawing accusations of "vaccine apartheid."
In a video conference address in the Group of 20 Global Health Summit on the pandemic, hosted by Italy and the European Union's executive Commission, China's President Xi Jinping said: "Today the problem of uneven vaccination has become more acute… It is imperative for us to reject vaccine nationalism and make vaccines more accessible and affordable for developing countries."
China has already supplied 300 million vaccine doses to the rest of the world and will provide more to the best of its ability, he added.
Furthermore, Beijing supports the transfer of technologies from its vaccine companies to other developing countries and trying out joint production with them, Xi said.
The forum on cooperation would be "for vaccine-developing and producing countries, companies and other stakeholders to explore ways of promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world," Xi said.
He called on major countries to take up the responsibility to provide more vaccines to developing nations in urgent need.
US President Joe Biden let his vice president, Kamala Harris, speak on his behalf. His administration has backed calls from many developing countries for the patent waiver, in the hope this would boost production and allow more equitable distribution.
The suggestion has been snubbed by some European nations, who have instead called for the removal of US trade barriers that they consider the main bottleneck.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said existing global agreements already allowed countries to force companies to share their licences in an emergency.
She added that the EU will make a proposal to facilitate the use of those clauses and added that Europe would donate at least 100 million doses to poorer nations by the end of the year, including 30 million each from France and Germany. /Compiled from wires