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UK: Government must end Covid vaccine hoarding as booster programme announced

The UK has ordered enough doses to vaccinate its whole population three times over

If current trends continue, it will take the world’s poorest countries until 2078 to vaccinate their populations

‘Booster jabs are welcome, but Boris Johnson must truly understand that nobody is safe until everyone is safe’ - Steve Cockburn

Responding to news that the UK government plans to roll out Covid vaccine boosters for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable, Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, said

“As the UK prepares to provide booster jabs to higher risk adults, it is also critical that the UK dramatically scales up its support to billions of people around the world who have not yet received a single dose. 

“The UK is currently sitting on tens of millions of surplus vaccines that could be redistributed around the world, without impacting its domestic programme, and it is unconscionable to keep hoarding these vaccines while tens of thousands of people are dying every week.

“Quite apart from it making a mockery of vaccine equality, vaccine nationalism in richer countries is slowing the planet from overcoming the pandemic - allowing more time for variants to mutate and spread in lower and higher income countries alike.

“Boris and his government must yet again be reminded that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”

World’s poor left unprotected

While around 42% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, fewer than 2% of these are in low-income countries, according to Our World in Data. If current trends continue, it will take the world’s poorest countries until 2078 to vaccinate their populations. Meanwhile rich countries are expected to finish vaccinating their populations by January next year. Countries such as the UK, which ordered enough doses to vaccinate its whole population three times over, must urgently do their part to resolve global vaccine inequality

Patent waivers

Of the G7 nations, only the USA has explicitly supported waiving patents for vaccines. Japan has said it will not oppose the move if it is agreed internationally, while the UK and Germany have vehemently opposed the plan. Canada, Italy and France have made no clear policy statements on the issue.

Vaccine developers have received more than 70 billion pounds in public funding, yet not a single vaccine developer has agreed to participate in the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), set up more than a year ago to facilitate the sharing of life-saving intellectual property and technology. Major pharmaceutical firms - including Moderna and Pfizer - are meanwhile making huge profits, and nine new vaccine billionaires have been created since the beginning of the pandemic.

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