G7 Summit: UK PM pledges to donate 100 mn COVID vaccine doses

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London, Jun 11 (PTI) The UK will donate 100 million surplus coronavirus vaccine doses to the world within the next year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday at the start of the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

Ahead of the formal sessions of the summit -- bringing together leaders of the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well the European Union and guest nations India, South Africa, Australia and South Korea -- Johnson as the host vowed to 'take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good'.

At the Summit, to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually, world leaders are expected to announce they will provide at least 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the world through dose sharing and financing and set out a plan to expand vaccine manufacturing in order to achieve that goal.

“Since the start of this pandemic the UK has led the way in efforts to protect humanity against this deadly disease. Over a year ago we funded the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the basis it would be distributed at cost to the world,” Johnson said.

“This unprecedented model, which puts people squarely above profit, means over half a billion doses have been administered in 160 countries so far. 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,” he said.

“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus,” Johnson added.

The UK will donate 5 million doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries.

Johnson has also committed to donating a further 95 million doses within the next year, including 25 million more by the end of 2021. Eighty per cent of the 100 million doses will go to the United Nations led COVAX initiative and the remainder will be shared bilaterally with countries in need.

The UK government said COVAX has so far provided 81 million doses to 129 of the world’s poorest countries, with 96 per cent of these being the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the development of which was funded by the UK.

The UK government, Oxford-AstraZeneca are distributing their vaccines on a not for profit basis the world over, including as a tie-up with the Serum Institute of India.

The cost of donating the UK’s surpluses will be classified as overseas development assistance (ODA) and will be in addition to GBP 10 billion already committed in aid this year.

The doses the UK has announced it will donate today will be drawn from Britain's expected excess supply. The 100 million figure has been calculated based on the total needed to vaccinate the UK population, factoring in the possibility of future vaccine-resistant strains being detected and potential disruptions to supply.

At the G7 Summit this weekend, leaders will also discuss how to expand the supply of vaccines internationally, with Johnson asking the group to encourage pharmaceutical companies to adopt the Oxford-AstraZeneca model of providing vaccines at cost for the duration of the pandemic.

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have already pledged to share 1.3 billion doses on a non-profit basis with developing countries.

Leaders are expected to discuss additional ways to support countries experiencing acute coronavirus emergencies and put in place mechanisms to prevent future pandemics. This follows on from commitments made at the virtual meeting of G7 leaders earlier this year. PTI AK SCY

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