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by Louise Wilson
21 October 2021
UK donates less than tenth of promised vaccines to poorer nations

Torsten Simon/Pixabay

UK donates less than tenth of promised vaccines to poorer nations

The UK has donated less than a tenth of the vaccines it promised to poorer countries while obtaining more doses from a global group set up to provide access to vaccines for developing countries for its own use, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has found.

Describing the move as “staggeringly selfish”, the group has urged the Prime Minister to end the “deadly stranglehold on global supply”.

And Scottish members are calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to challenge the UK government for not meeting its commitments.

The new report published by the Alliance, which includes Oxfam Scotland, Christian Aid Scotland and Global Justice Now among its membership, found the UK government has only delivered 9.6 million doses of the vaccine.

It has promised to donate 100 million by June next year, but four months on it has only supplied less than 10 per cent of the total.

The report also found the UK had taken half a million doses from Covax, the organisation set up in partnership with the World Health Organization and Unicef to deliver equitable access around the world.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Not only has the UK government utterly failed to deliver on its vaccine promises to poor countries, it’s been pilfering one of the only supplies they have access to whilst also blocking efforts to scale up production.

“This isn’t just staggeringly selfish but it’s also spectacularly short-sighted and will cost lives around the world and potentially here in Scotland too.

“The First Minister has a duty to speak out and call for the UK government to compel pharmaceutical companies to share their lifesaving vaccines and technology with the rest of the world.”

However, the UK government has said it remains on track to meet its commitment.

A spokesperson said: "The UK has already delivered over 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, as part of the Prime Minister’s pledge to donate 100 million doses overseas by June next year.”

“The UK government’s funding of the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has enabled over a billion doses to be delivered at a non-profit price around the world, and as one of the first and largest donors, the UK helped establish the Covax scheme to ensure equal access to doses for all globally.”

Several MSPs have backed a motion in the Scottish Parliament, lodged by Labour’s Sarah Boyack, urging the UK government to waive intellectual property rights over the vaccine to allow other countries to begin production.

This has been co-signed by SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem members, including Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater who have since become ministers in the Scottish government.

Writing exclusively for Holyrood, Boyack said: “The ripple effect of the UK government opting to side with Big Pharma could prove deadly here in Scotland… Yet the First Minister has, so far, failed to explicitly back this call, despite the clear risks that vaccine inequality creates to Scottish lives and our country’s fragile recovery from the pandemic.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish government continued to engage with UK counterparts on this matter.

He added: “Last year we gave £2.5m to Unicef to help vaccine distribution, rollout and online healthcare education, and have helped send vital medical equipment and humanitarian support to other countries. We are looking at how we might offer further support for vaccinations in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda as part of our wider international development programme.

“This is while the UK government cuts aid – going back on a commitment to meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent of the gross national income – a deplorable decision that is hitting the world’s poorest and most marginal communities at a time of great need.”

Less than two per cent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated, compared to 92 per cent of adults in Scotland.

Around the world, 1.8 billion doses of Covid vaccines were promised by rich countries but only 261 million (14 per cent) have been delivered so far.

A number of pharmaceutical companies also pledged to send doses direct to Covax. Of these, Pfizer has delivered on 40 per cent of what it promised, while 14 per cent of the AstraZeneca commitment has been handed over.

No doses have yet been donated by Johnson & Johnson or Moderna, according to the report.

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