THE Anglican Communion has added its voice to demands that wealthy nations share their vaccine surplus urgently to prevent the waste of millions of doses.
The Anglican Health and Community Network said that, even with booster jabs and the ongoing vaccination of teenagers, richer nations were still on track to amass more than one billion vaccine doses by the end of the year.
Leaders of the network, which includes the Bishop of Hertford, Dr Michael Beasley, and the Bishop of Namibia, the Rt Revd Luke Pato, called on the G7 to act now. “Rich nations must not hoard the surpluses amassed, but must share,” they said. “The lives and health of millions around the world are at risk, alongside the threat of new variants emerging globally.
“Vaccines have ‘use by’ dates. If not put into people’s arms, significant parts of the excess being generated will need to be destroyed. High-income countries have promised to donate more than one billion doses, but less than 15 per cent of these have so far materialised.
“We call on all G7 governments and others to fulfil their promises and commit fully to global vaccine equity. National vaccine surpluses must be equitably and effectively shared, with waste avoided and lives saved. We are one human family. We can and must work together to end this pandemic, leaving no one behind.”
The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this week that the world was facing a “vaccine waste disaster”, and that the G7 needed a vaccine-release plan to prevent a “collective political tragedy”.
On Wednesday, President Biden hosted a virtual Covid-19 summit to address vaccination and oxygen shortages around the world. At the summit, he announced that the US would buy another half a billion vaccine doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to give to poorer countries. “America will become the arsenal for vaccines, as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II,” he said.
A study by the company Airfinity, which specialises in scientific analysis, reported this week that the G7 and the EU would have one billion more doses than they needed by the end of this year. And, because vaccines have an expiry date of six months, it estimates that 241 million doses will be wasted, unless they are redistributed to countries where there is a desperate shortage.
These surplus vaccine supplies, combined with promised donations and COVAX deliveries from the World Health Organization (WHO), are enough to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of lower-income and lower-middle-income countries, the study concluded.
The largest national stockpiler of vaccines is the United States, which has a current stockpile of 131 million doses. The UK has 29 million doses classed as “additional stock”.
Both the US and the UK have begun a booster vaccine programme, although the WHO has asked countries to delay booster programmes until the end of the year, to enable other countries to vaccinate more of their populations.
Only two per cent of the world’s poorest people have been vaccinated. In Africa, less than four per cent of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid. Countries with the lowest vaccination levels and the highest fatality rates from Covid include Namibia, Lesotho, and Haiti.