THE UK’s excess supply of Covid vaccines will be donated to poorer countries, the Government pledged today, at a virtual meeting of the G7 group of nations, the first to be attended by new President of the United States, Joe Biden.
The pledge from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, followed a proposal yesterday by the French Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron, to send five per cent of vaccines to countries that are struggling to access them.
The dual proposals come in the wake of criticism that richer countries are hoarding supplies: 130 countries have so far not received a single dose of the vaccine. A survey by Christian Aid suggested that nearly two thirds of the UK population believe that vaccination should be rolled out equally around the world (News, 19 February).
The Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said this morning on BBC Radio 4: “Our first duty is to protect our own people: that is the first duty of all governments. But we are also a global force for good, and that’s why we’re leading the world in calls to ensure that the poorer countries in the world are also made safe.”
He said that the UK plan was likely to mean a supply of vaccines “significantly greater” than the French plan, sent to poorer countries, though he could not confirm a date when the vaccine sharing would begin.
Almost 17 million people have now received a first dose of the vaccine in the UK. The UK has ordered 400 million doses of different Covid vaccines — far more than is needed to vaccinate the entire population.
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said that vaccine distribution was currently the “world’s biggest moral test”. He went on: “Those affected by conflict and insecurity are at particular risk of being left behind. At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”
Mr Johnson has also pledged to cut the development time of a vaccine to just 100 days.
Bishops in the Church of England have posted video messages supporting the NHS-backed campaign #Give Hope, urging people to seek out accurate information and encourage each other to have the Covid vaccine, as take-up among ethnic minority communities remains low.
Thirteen bishops, including the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, and the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, appear in a compilation video which emphasises that the vaccines have been “robustly tested” by scientists, and that getting a jab is an “act of love” to those around us.
Bishop Hudson-Wilkin ends the video saying: “If the vaccine was good enough for Her Majesty, then it is good enough for us.”