Australia will play a key role in a plan to distribute one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses rolled out to countries in need.
The US, India, Japan and Australia have pledged to roll out one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries in the Asia-Pacific following a historic summit overnight.
The nations ratified the move hoped to accelerate the end of the pandemic at the first joint-leaders meeting of ‘the Quad’ – the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – a strategic forum between the countries.
US President Joe Biden, and prime ministers Narendra Modi, Yoshihide Suga and Scott Morrison held a virtual conference early on Saturday morning Australian time in what Mr Morrison described as a “new dawn” for the region.
The doses will be manufactured at facilities in India, with Quad partners to support the process through funding and logistical assistance in regards to production, procurement and safe delivery of the shots.
Pharmaceutical company Biological E plans to produce one billion doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of 2022.
Australia has committed US$77m (AU$99.2m) for the provision of vaccines and “last-mile” delivery support with a focus on southeast Asia.
It had already promised AU$524m to provide full vaccine coverage to nine Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.
Speaking at the start of the meeting Mr Morrison promised Australia would do its “share of the heavy lifting to lighten the burden for us all”.
“As we begin a new day here in Australia it’s not yet dawn, but we join together as Quad leaders of nations to welcome what I think will be will be a new dawn in the Indo-Pacific through our gathering,” he said.
“As we emerge from this global pandemic, and the global recession, let us together create a different future. It is the Indo-Pacific that will now shape the destiny of our world in the 21st century.
“As four leaders of great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, let our partnership be the enabler of peace, stability and prosperity and to do so inclusively with the many nations of our region.”
Mr Biden said the meeting signalled a renewed commitment to ensure the Indo-Pacific region was committed to upholding universal values and “governed by international law”.
“The Quad is going to be a vital arena for co-operation in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
His administration holds the partnership as critical to efforts of keeping China’s growing dominance in Asia in check.
On Saturday the leaders also agreed to form joint working committees to tackle other issues facing the region, including climate and new technologies.
“Our common goals require us to reckon with the most urgent of global challenges,” the meeting’s statement of facts declared.
“Today, we pledge to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, combat climate change, and address shared challenges, including in cyberspace, critical technologies, counter-terrorism, quality infrastructure investment, and humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief as well as maritime domains.”