MPs, peers pressure Boris Johnson to close COVID vaccine divide

·3-min read

London, Jun 1 (PTI) Pressure is mounting on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to donate vaccine doses to lower and middle-income countries ahead of the G7 Leaders’ Summit next week, after 116 MPs and peers wrote to him to say the UK has a 'moral duty' to help close the global vaccine divide.

The cross-party group, coordinated by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus and including Indian-origin MPs Virendra Sharma and Nav Mishra and peers Lord Karan Bilimoria and Lord Rami Ranger, issued a letter to Johnson last week to show 'global leadership' by pledging to donate one dose abroad for each one given in the UK.

They warn that the recent surge in cases of the B1.617.2 COVID-19 variant, first identified in India and now named Delta, has shown that 'to save lives at home, we must vaccinate the world'.

'There is a clear moral imperative to act to close the global vaccine divide. But there is also a rational case to intervene and support vaccination efforts abroad, to stop the threat of variants emerging abroad and taking root in the UK,” the letter reads.

'The longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that dangerous variants could emerge that can evade the protections offered by current vaccines. The UK has an opportunity to use the G7 summit to show leadership on this critical issue and demonstrate that Global Britain is more than just a slogan,” it adds.

It urges the government to immediately adopt a policy of 'vaccine matching', in which for each dose of the vaccine imported into the UK, one dose is donated to lower and middle-income nations via the Covax scheme. It also calls on the UK to “turn its economic might” to expanding its domestic vaccine production capability, so it can both meet demand for future booster vaccines and become a net vaccine exporter.

Finally, the group urges the government to support international proposals to temporarily lift patent protections for coronavirus vaccines and promote the associated transfer of technology, in order to boost vaccine manufacturing capabilities in low and middle-income countries.

'We are seeing harrowing scenes unfolding in countries such as Nepal or Bangladesh, where Covid cases and deaths are soaring due to the desperate shortage of vaccines,” the politicians warn.

It comes after Professor Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, recently warned the APPG on Coronavirus that 'many millions could die between now and September' unless vaccine doses were provided to lower and middle-income countries through Covax – the United Nations initiative on vaccine coordination.

Covax is currently short of 140 million doses, and this shortage is expected to rise to 190 million.

'As the eyes of the world are upon us for the G7 summit, it’s time to show global leadership and donate an equal share of vaccine doses to those who need them most. This would not only save lives abroad, but would reduce the risk of new variants emerging that would threaten our own hard-won progress against the pandemic here at home,” said Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus.

'Until we match the success of the UK vaccination programme across the world, we will continue to be at the mercy of new COVID variants here at home,” said Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative Party MP and Vice Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus.

They point out that European countries including Germany, France and Italy have committed to donate at least 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to middle- and low-income countries before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the United States recently announced it will donate an additional 20 million doses overseas, bringing the total it is donating to 80 million. The UK government has so far only committed to donating surplus coronavirus vaccines in future to Covax. PTI AK ZH ZH