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Japan says global health to top agenda at G-7 summit in May

A health worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic in Reading, Pa. on Feb. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Japan will choose global health as a priority issue when it hosts a Group of Seven summit in May, partly because equitable vaccine access remains a challenge around the world even amid the transition to a post-COVID-19 era, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Wednesday.

    During an online meeting of foreign ministers hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Japanese minister also said in English that international efforts should continue and include preparation for "actions to be taken after the acute phase of the pandemic."

    The meeting was the fourth and final ministerial of the "COVID-19 Global Action Plan" initiative, which was launched a year ago and has involved more than 30 countries, the European Union and various organizations.

    "We've made significant headway," Blinken said, hailing the U.S.-proposed initiative for helping boost global vaccination rates, with nearly 64 percent of the people around the world having now received their first two doses against the novel coronavirus.

    "A pandemic is not just a health crisis," he said. "Health security is national security."

    Thanks to their collaboration going beyond traditional approaches and borders, the secretary said, the plan has succeeded in reinforcing supply chains and improving the distribution of necessary items to fight the disease while combating misinformation and disinformation about vaccines.

    Blinken also warned against complacency, noting persistent challenges such the high numbers of older and immunocompromised people who have gone unvaccinated.

    "The world cannot succumb to the cycle of panic and neglect" seen in response to earlier outbreaks such as the Ebola and Zika viruses, he said. "In the long term, we need to institutionalize the role that foreign ministries played in the COVID response and apply it to our continued efforts to strengthen health security."

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