Leaders head to COVID-themed G7 summit with vaccine pledges

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FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2019, file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, center, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second right, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, second left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel , center left, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, rear right, and European Council President Donald Tusk attend a session during the G7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France. Helping countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic will be at the top of the agenda for the Group of Seven summit when Johnson welcomes President Joe Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada to the cliff-ringed Carbis Bay beach resort in southwestern England on Friday, June 11. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP, File)

LONDON – Group of Seven leaders began arriving at a luxury seaside resort in England on Thursday for a Group of Seven summit where some of the world's richest nations will pledge to share coronavirus vaccines with the poorest, as part of efforts to help a pandemic-scarred world recover.

Since the G-7 last met two years ago, COVID-19 has killed more than 3.7 million people and decimated economies with lockdowns and layoffs.

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada to the cliff-ringed Carbis Bay beach resort in southwest England, pandemic recovery — and, crucially, getting vaccines to billions who lack them — is at the top of the agenda.

“This is the moment for the world’s greatest and most technologically advanced democracies to shoulder their responsibilities and to vaccinate the world, because no one can be properly protected until everyone has been protected,” Johnson said in an article published Thursday, a day before the summit's official start.

Johnson, who has faced criticism for months over Britain’s refusal to send any vaccine doses abroad, pledged to donate 100 million jabs in the next year, the first of them by September, and said the G-7 as a whole is expected to give 1 billion doses. Half of that came in a pledge from U.S. President Joe Biden.

Biden, making his first foreign trip as president, announced that the U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine to share with poorer countries over the next year.

"America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19," Biden said.

The summit is seen as a major test for Johnson, a divisive leader at home and abroad whose two years in office have been dominated by the consecutive crises of Brexit and the pandemic.