UK set to âhoardâ up to 210m doses of Covid vaccine, research suggests
The UK is on course to âhoardâ up to 210m spare coronavirus vaccines by the end of the year, research suggests, as ministers were accused of leaving poorer countries âfighting for scrapsâ.
Pressure is growing on the government to do more to help nations where tiny proportions of their population have had a first jab given that the UK is opposing a temporary waiver to intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines that would allow more companies abroad to manufacture the doses themselves.NHS still not recognising British citizensâ overseas Covid jabs, says peer Read more
About 467m jabs are due to be delivered to the UK by the end of 2021, data from life science analytics company Airfinity found. However only 256.6m jabs will be needed to fulfil the expected demand of vaccinating all over-16s and giving a booster dose to the most vulnerable in autumn.
Given the average level of take-up for adults who have received a first and second dose stands at just over 80%, if the same level was maintained for those eligible accepting all doses they are offered this year, that would leave a surplus of 210m vaccines. Even if take-up were 100%, the figure would be 186m.
These leftover jabs would help inoculate the about 211 million people living in the worldâs 10 least vaccinated countries, said campaign group Global Justice Now, which collated the figures.
Nick Dearden, director of the organisation, told the Guardian it was an âinsult to the thousands dying each dayâ that the UK was offering third doses and preparing to vaccinate teenagers while low- and middle-income countries were left âfighting for scrapsâ.
He said the issue was compounded by the UKâs efforts to âobstructâ a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on coronavirus vaccines. The bid was tabled at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020 by India and South Africa â and has since been backed by countries including the US, France and Italy.
Minutes from the most recent WTO meeting to discuss the proposal concluded that âdisagreement persisted on the fundamental question of what is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable access to vaccinesâ, with a decision now pushed back until October 2021.
Dearden said the UK was âkeeping the global south dependent on donations while hoarding limited vaccine supplies for ourselvesâ and called it an âobscene injusticeâ.
The governmentâs drive to roll out third doses from next month flies in the face of a call by the World Health Organization this week for a moratorium on booster shots in a bid to vaccinate 10% of every countryâs population by the end of September. It estimates at least 60-70% of the world needs to be inoculated to reach âglobal immunityâ.
The 10 countries with the smallest proportion of people vaccinated, according to Oxford Universityâs Our World In Data, are: the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.005%), Haiti (0.003%), Burkina Faso (0.01%), Vanuatu (0.03%), South Sudan (0.04%), Yemen (0.04%), Chad (0.04%), Syria (0.05%), Guinea Bissau (0.06%) and Benin (0.1%).
The situation was akin to âvaccine apartheidâ, said Max Lawson, Oxfamâs head of inequality policy. He told the Guardian: âThe British government is ignoring the WHOâs advice, issuing booster shots and dogmatically defending vaccine patents. Itâs only going to prolong the pandemic, leading to more deaths and, ultimately, to mutations of coronavirus that could undermine the UKâs own vaccination programme.â
Shami Chakrabarti, a former Labour shadow attorney general, said the UK and other wealthy nations âhave a responsibility to do all we can to save lives in the global southâ but ministers were instead âclosing down every avenue for low- and-middle-income countries to access vaccines with sufficient speed and scaleâ.
âFor the government to see such suffering and impede every solution is an utter failure of common decency let alone human rights obligations,â she added.
A government spokesperson said: âThe UK is committed to supporting a global recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic and improving access to vaccines.
âWe have committed to donate 100m doses by June 2022, with the first deliveries starting last week. On top of this, UK funding is helping to provide more than a billion vaccines to low- and middle-income countries through Covax.â