Dear Editor – I wish to quote Joe Murphy writing in the Evening Standard in the UK which said poor countries must have fair access to coronavirus vaccines the UK’s Foreign Secretary has said.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, the Foreign Secretary said the UK will put “global health at the forefront” when Boris Johnson hosts this summer’s G7 summit in Cornwall of world leaders including new US president Joe Biden.
“Disease outbreaks do not respect borders,” said Mr Raab. “It is clear that by preventing the virus from spreading in the poorest countries, we will save millions of lives around the world.
“That’s why it is essential that we ensure there is fair access to vaccines, treatments and tests for developing countries to end the pandemic. Britain is leading the global efforts to make sure this happens.”
Britain has earmarked £1.3 billion of aid to fight the pandemic in poor countries and has given £500 million to the COVAX group that aims to supply of at least 1.3 billion doses this year in up to 92 developing countries. The UK is also giving millions of tests and treatments to countries that cannot afford them and has adapted over 300 aid programmes to meet the pandemic.
But health experts fear developing countries will get too few vaccines, leading to loss of lives and heightened dangers of mutations re-entering the developed world.
On Thursday, top UK scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar said new strains were “a warning of what is coming, which we must take incredibly seriously”.
Last week, the head of the World Health Organisation warned of a “catastrophic moral failure” because of vaccine inequality. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “me-first” approach by wealthy nations “will only prolong the pandemic”.
Mr Raab said the health crisis would be on the G7 agenda. “2021 marks a crucial year of international leadership for the UK,” he said. “We will use the UK’s G7 Presidency to help the world build back better from the coronavirus pandemic, putting global health at the forefront of our strategic vision.
“As one of the biggest donors to COVAX, we are helping to deliver more than a billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest people. We welcome the news that these vaccines will start to be delivered in the coming months.”
Britain is the biggest donor to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which is leading international efforts to develop new vaccines.
Last June, London hosted the Global Vaccine Summit of world leaders and representatives from more than 62 countries which raised $8.8 billion for Gavi, the international vaccine alliance.
In May Britain co-hosted the Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference which raised £7 billion for vaccines, tests and treatments.
In addition, Britain has handed £2.2 billion of lending to the IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust and extended the G20 Debt Suspension Service Initiative by 6 months, providing up to $6 billion breathing space indebted poor countries.
So let’s hope the poor countries will also get some benefits.