The UK lags behind other G7 countries in sharing surplus Covid vaccines with poorer countries, according to recently released figures.
Advocacy organization One, which campaigns to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, has called this a shame for the UK government.
The figures show that the UK is behind all G7 members – of which Britain is currently the chair – except Japan.
Romilly Greenhill, director of One’s UK, said the number of vaccines the UK is committing to share this year is half of that pledged by France, less than a third of that of Germany and a tenth of that promised by the United States. She said: “We hosted the G7 this year. We claim global leadership in vaccine deployment, but when you look in detail at the level of ambition that we show, we are way behind other major economies.
“In a critical week with the G20, the expenditure review and the Cop26, we are weakening our international reputation.”
Figures One, released by analytics firm Airfinity, show that the EU has pledged to share 200 million doses by the end of 2021, the US 280 million, France 60 million, the Germany 100 million, Italy 45 million, Canada 41.5 million and the United Kingdom 30 million. The latest figures also show that the UK has so far distributed only a third of the vaccines it has committed to this year.
The UK had the opportunity to step up the level of commitment it first made at the G7 summit in June when Joe Biden called a new pledging conference at the assembly General meeting in September, but the UK made no announcements, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not even attend.
At the UN summit, Biden increased the level of US engagement by saying, “For every blow we have administered to date in America, we have now pledged to do three shots at the rest of the world. . “
Greenhill said: “The UK government is extremely cautious about the vaccines it needs for national deployment. We understand the concerns about the national situation, but from a moral point of view it is wrong that many people in the UK are receiving their third dose when even health workers in low income countries have not received a single dose.
“There is a broader practical personal interest – if we are to end the pandemic, we really need to immunize the world in order to get the global economy back on track. “
She added that there was no sign that the UK could justify the disparity in vaccine distribution pledges on the grounds that it suffers from particularly difficult supply constraints. The UK has pledged to share 80% of its 30 million vaccines this year through the global purchasing and distribution mechanism known as Covax, with the rest being distributed bilaterally.
The UK’s stated plans are more ambitious for vaccine delivery in 2022, promising to deliver 100 million vaccines by the end of next year, the same target as Germany, but less than France, the EU and the United States. However, Campaign One said it was critical that doses be distributed quickly so that they are available for use this winter rather than spring. “Speed really matters,” said Greenhill.
The One figures dovetail with a call by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an emergency airlift of surplus vaccines. He calculates that there are 240 million unused vaccines in the world which, if deployed in the right countries, could save 60,000 lives.
Brown, who was appointed adviser to the World Health Organization last month, called on the G20 to support “the biggest peacetime public policy decision” by backing an October airlift to send unused vaccines in the southern parts of the world that are most needed.
At the G7 summit, the UK said its vaccine dose-sharing costs would be counted as a supplement to the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget, but in recent weeks this has been challenged. Greenhill said if vaccine costs were included in ODA, the impact could reach £ 1 billion on the rest of the aid budget.
The precise cost of dose sharing by country is difficult to calculate due to the lack of transparency on the initial cost of doses.