Leading scientists are urging the UK to share the Covid vaccines it has bought with India and other nations, to tackle the soaring death toll and reduce the spread of the virus and new variants around the world.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, said rich countries including the UK that have bought up most of the vaccine supply “urgently need to start sharing these doses with the rest of the world, alongside national rollouts in their own countries, and through the Covax programme. And they must set out a timetable for how these donations will be increased as they vaccinate more of their populations domestically.”
Writing in the Guardian, Farrar called on the UK to lead the world, through its presidency of the G7. “We have already vaccinated over half of our population – including those who are most at risk from Covid-19. In fact, the UK has given almost as many doses to its own citizens than Covax has been able to ship to 120 countries in dire need of jabs,” he said.
Covax, the UN-based initiative to get vaccines to the most vulnerable 20% of the population of every country, has managed to deliver only a fifth of the doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine expected by May, because of global shortages and problems with supply.
One in four people in high-income countries are now protected but only one in 500 in low-income countries, where unvaccinated health workers are still putting their lives on the line. The US has announced it will give India 60m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet licensed for use in the US.
Farrar said sharing vaccines was in every country’s self-interest. “The shores Covid now rages upon may seem distant to some, but the reality is that so long as the virus continues to spread in other countries, it continues to be a threat to everyone. If we allow Covid-19 to keep spreading, it will go on evolving, increasing the risk of new variants that could cross borders and evade vaccines and treatments.”
Read more of Sarah Boseley’s report here: Leading scientists urge UK to share Covid vaccines with poorer nations