The Guardian

UK to donate 100m surplus vaccine doses as part of G7’s pledge to poorer nations

- Patrick Wintour Sarah Boseley

The UK will donate 100m surplus Covid vaccine doses within the next year to low-income countries as part of at least 1bn doses due from the G7.

On Wednesday, the US promised to buy 500m Pfizer vaccines at a cost of $3bn (£2.1bn) for distributi­on to 100 poor countries, with 200m distribute­d this year. This is in addition to releasing 80m of its surplus by the end of June.

But a group of campaigner­s including former prime minister Gordon Brown said the G7 package did not meet the structural problems facing low-income countries in securing a regular supply of vaccines.

The WHO warned infections had been growing in the past three weeks across Africa. It said: “Forty-seven of Africa’s 54 countries – nearly 90% – are set to miss the September target of vaccinatin­g 10% of their people unless Africa receives 225m more doses”. It added: “At 32m doses, Africa accounts for under 1% of the over 2.1bn doses administer­ed globally. Just 2% of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated.”

The UK will donate 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks. A further 95m doses will be supplied within the next 12 months, including 25m of them by the end of 2021. Eighty per cent of the UK’s 100m doses will go to Covax, the UN-led clearing house for vaccines for poorer countries, and the remainder will be shared bilaterall­y with countries that the UK selects.

The UK believes it can afford 5m doses without delaying its own vaccine programme. It has calculated that the 100m donation still leaves a buffer in case of new strains or supply bottleneck­s. It points out it was the fourth-largest donor to Covax last year, and 96% of the doses it gave were Oxford-AstraZenec­a, whose developmen­t it helped fund.

Boris Johnson said: “As a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme, we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them. In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good.”

Officials said the cost of transferri­ng the vaccines would be treated as overseas developmen­t assistance, but would not come from the existing ODA budget, currently lowered to 0.5% of the UK national income.

Brown said the G7 should “guarantee that 11bn vaccines, enough vaccines to cover the whole world, will be available in months, and that the G7 will ensure that protection is delivered to all by paying their fair share of the $50bn cost of the vaccines, the testing, the protective equipment that the world urgently needs”.

Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children’s policy director, described the British contributi­on as “a good start” but added: “It’s really on the financing that the summit will be judged and we need a 24-hour drive from the PM to negotiate a global costed and financed roadmap to vaccinate the world and scale up supply.”

On the eve of the G7 summit, Joe Biden confirmed his plan to buy 500m doses and said the US will be “the vaccine arsenal of the world”. The US president said in Cornwall: “This is about our responsibi­lity, our humanitari­an obligation, to save as many lives as we can. When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said pharmaceut­ical firms needed to donate 10% of their vaccines, and set a target of “60% of Africans vaccinated by the end of the first quarter 2022”.

Western leaders have been wary of sending surplus vaccines abroad, insisting they must protect their own population­s first, but the balance of the argument has gradually shifted as surplus stockpiles have mounted.

The UK has joined the EU in resisting the call led by South Africa, and now backed by France and the US, for a compulsory waiver on vaccine patents. They fear a waiver would deter pharmaceut­ical firms from investing in research and developmen­t.

The UK is instead asking the G7 to encourage the Oxford-AstraZenec­a model of providing jabs at cost for the duration of the pandemic.

 ??  ?? ▲ Boris Johnson on a visit yesterday to St Issey primary school, Wadebridge
▲ Boris Johnson on a visit yesterday to St Issey primary school, Wadebridge

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