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Covid vaccines: Boris Johnson pledges surplus to poorer countries

Author : tvmillo
Publish Date : 2021-02-19 14:52:51
Covid vaccines: Boris Johnson pledges surplus to poorer countries

Boris Johnson will pledge to donate most of the UK's surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries in a speech to a virtual G7 meeting on Friday.

He will urge rich countries to back a 100-day target for the developing new vaccines for future emerging diseases.

The UK has ordered more than 400 million doses of various vaccines, so many will be left over once all adults are vaccinated.

But anti-poverty campaigners say the UK is not doing enough.

Decisions on when and how much of the surplus will be distributed will be made later this year, with ministers taking into account the supply chain and whether booster shots are needed in the autumn.

French President Emmanuel Macron has told the Financial Times richer countries should send up to 4 to 5% of their current vaccine supplies to poorer nations.

But Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK would be "looking at a figure significantly greater than that".

He promised the government would be a "global force for good" in fighting the pandemic and, unlike "some countries", the UK would not use the promise of vaccine supplies to other countries as "short-term diplomatic leverage".

But it was" difficult to say" at this stage when the sharing would happen, Mr Cleverly added.

A government source said more than half of excess doses would go to Covax, a UN initiative intended to ensure wider access to vaccines.

The UK government has donated £548m to the scheme, to which the US pledged $4bn (£2.9bn) in December.

Almost 17 million people in the UK have now received at least one vaccine dose, with 573,724 of these receiving two doses, according to the latest figures.

In the global scramble to secure vaccines against Covid-19 many wealthy countries - which funded a lot of the research - have ended up buying more supplies than they need.

New figures from the anti-poverty pressure group, the ONE campaign, reveal that Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, and US and the EU have already secured more than 3bn doses - 1.2bn more than they need to give their entire populations two doses.

The UK has also given £548m to Covax - the UN-led attempt to get vaccines out to poorer countries.

But campaigners say they want hard facts on how many actual doses Britain will now be donating to the mechanism.

Some 130 countries in the world haven't done any vaccinations at all and healthcare workers in those countries remain at high risk.

And even if the Covax plan works, it's only designed to cover 20% of each nation's population - far short of the herd immunity expected in wealthy countries.
2px presentational grey line

Mr Johnson will use his position as chairman of the G7 group of major economies to push the case for setting a 100-day target for developing vaccines when new diseases strike.

"The development of viable coronavirus vaccines offers the tantalising prospect of a return to normality, but we must not rest on our laurels," he will say. "As leaders of the G7 we must say today: never again."

Friday's virtual meeting will be the first gathering of G7 leaders since April 2020, and the first international meeting for new US President Joe Biden.

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