Over 100 MPs and peers demand Boris Johnson closes global vaccine divide ahead of G7 summit
- Cross-party group of 116 MPs and peers warn the UK has a “moral imperative” to donate vaccine doses to Covax as millions of lives at risk.
- Boris Johnson urged to show “global leadership” ahead of next week’s G7 summit by pledging to donate one dose abroad for each one given in the UK.
- The UK should increase its own manufacturing capacity to become a “net vaccine exporter,” while supporting a patent waiver for vaccines to boost supply in low and middle-income countries.
Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to donate vaccine doses to lower and middle-income countries ahead of next week’s G7 summit, after a cross-party group of 116 MPs and peers said the UK has a “moral duty” to help close the global vaccine divide.
It comes after Professor Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, recently warned MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus that "many millions could die between now and September" unless vaccine doses were provided to lower and middle-income countries through Covax. The letter states that the government must “act now to prevent this tragedy unfolding.”
The parliamentarians are calling on the Prime Minister to show leadership on the issue ahead of next week’s G7 summit in Cornwall and demonstrate that “Global Britain is more than just a slogan.” 116 MPs and peers from all four UK nations and nine political parties have co-signed the letter, including father of the house Peter Bottomley MP, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Margaret Thatcher’s former health minister Baroness Hooper.
The letter, coordinated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, describes how “harrowing scenes” are unfolding in lower and middle-income countries where Covid cases and deaths are soaring due to the shortage of vaccines. It says that there is both a moral and rational case for closing the global vaccine divide, adding that the recent surge in cases of the Indian variant has shown that “to save lives at home, we must vaccinate the world.”
The cross-party letter urges the government to immediately adopt a policy of “vaccine matching,” in which for each dose of the vaccine imported into the UK, one dose is donated to lower and middle-income nations via the Covax scheme. It also calls on the UK to “turn its economic might” to expanding its domestic vaccine production capability, so it can both meet demand for future booster vaccines and become a net vaccine exporter. Finally, the group urges the government to support international proposals to temporarily lift patent protections for coronavirus vaccines and promote the associated transfer of technology, in order to boost vaccine manufacturing capabilities in low and middle-income countries.
Experts told the APPG on Coronavirus at a hearing two weeks ago that urgent action is needed to tackle the unequal global distribution of vaccines and prevent the rise and spread of variants of concern. Professor Andrew Pollard said it would be “morally wrong" to vaccinate younger people and children in richer nations ahead of high-risk populations in lower and middle-income ones. Meanwhile, Dr Gavin Yamey of Duke University said that rich nations have an estimated 200 million spare doses of the vaccine that could be donated right now, and that an additional 1.5 billion doses have been procured by wealthier countries to use in future. Covax is currently short of 140 million doses, and this shortage is expected to rise to 190 million by the end of the month.
European countries including Germany, France and Italy have committed to donate at least 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to middle- and low-income countries before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the United States recently announced it will donate an additional 20 million doses overseas, bringing the total it is donating to 80 million. The UK government has so far only committed to donating surplus coronavirus vaccines in future to Covax.
Layla Moran MP, Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:
“Unless action is taken now, millions more lives could tragically be lost in lower and middle-income countries facing a desperate shortage of Covid vaccines.
“The UK government must not turn its back on the humanitarian disaster unfolding around the globe.
“As the eyes of the world are upon us for the G7 summit, it’s time to show global leadership and donate an equal share of vaccine doses to those who need them most.
“This would not only save lives abroad, but would reduce the risk of new variants emerging that would threaten our own hard-won progress against the pandemic here at home.”
Dr Dan Poulter MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:
“The rapid roll-out of the UK vaccination programme should be a source of pride for the British people. We must now use the same resolve to build our own manufacturing capacity and help vaccinate the world.
“This is no time for complacency. The public will not be truly safe as long as the pandemic continues to surge overseas.
“Until we match the success of the UK vaccination programme across the world, we will continue to be at the mercy of new Covid variants here at home.”
Clive Lewis MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:
“The UK government must use its power at the G7 to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world.
“Covid-19 vaccines and medical technologies were only made possible through public funding. So there is no reason why they should now be hoarded in the interest of generating private profit for a small handful of shareholders in the pharmaceutical industry, at the expense of public health.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe, so the UK and every member of the G7 must support a global COVID vaccine patents waiver, and promote the transfer of Covid medical technologies to boost vaccine manufacturing capability in low and middle-income countries.
“In the short term, action must also include donating vaccine doses that are so urgently needed abroad.”
Press contact: Paul Haydon, [email protected] , 07988395025
Notes to Editors
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus is conducting a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and has so far held over 20 hearings and made over 40 recommendations. The APPG brings together 74 MPs and peers, representing all four nations and every Westminster party.
The APPG held an evidence session on 18 May 2021 on global access to vaccines, with witnesses including Professor Andrew Pollard from the Oxford Vaccine Group, Professor Gavin Yamey of Duke University, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. A video recording of the session can be viewed here and a transcript is available here.
Please find a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister and list of signatories below.
Dear Prime Minister,
As the recent spike in cases of the ‘Indian’ variant across the UK has sadly proven, to save lives at home, we must vaccinate the world.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus this week heard stark evidence from leading experts about the urgent need to achieve the equitable distribution of vaccines across the world. While the vaccine programme here at home continues at pace, the pandemic is surging in lower and middle-income nations where vulnerable groups and health workers remain unvaccinated. We are seeing harrowing scenes unfolding in countries such as Nepal or Bangladesh, where Covid cases and deaths are soaring due to the desperate shortage of vaccines.
There is a clear moral imperative to act to close the global vaccine divide. But there is also a rational case to intervene and support vaccination efforts abroad, to stop the threat of variants emerging abroad and taking root in the UK. The longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that dangerous variants could emerge that can evade the protections offered by current vaccines.
The UK has an opportunity to use the G7 summit to show leadership on this critical issue and demonstrate that Global Britain is more than just a slogan. While the UK has rightly committed funding to COVAX, we remain a net importer of Covid-19 vaccines. The APPG on Coronavirus therefore recommends that the UK must immediately adopt a policy of vaccine matching, in which for each dose of the vaccine imported, one dose is donated to COVAX. This will help meet the urgent demand for vaccines in low and middle-income countries around the world.
At the same time, the UK should immediately turn its economic might to rapidly expand our domestic vaccine production capability and become a net vaccine exporter. This will help save lives abroad and safeguard our ability to keep the virus at bay, including through booster vaccines adapted to new variants. Finally, the UK government should support the WTO TRIPS waiver proposal, accompanied by the associated transfer of technology, to boost vaccine manufacturing capability in low and middle-income countries.
The UK mustn’t miss the opportunity provided by the G7 summit to lead the way in promoting more equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines. Professor Andrew Pollard from the Oxford Vaccine Group, who helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, warned us that "many millions could die between now and September”. The UK government has a moral duty to act now to prevent this tragedy unfolding.
As you yourself have stated: “No one is safe until everyone is safe”.
Layla Moran, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus
|Baroness||Baroness Hussein-Ece||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Bennett of Manor Castle||Peer||Green|
|Lord||Berkeley of Knighton||Peer||Crossbench|
|Baroness||Brown of Cambridge||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Bruce of Bennachie||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Lord||Campbell of Pittenween||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Campbell of Surbiton||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Carey of Clifton||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Clement-Jones CBE||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Finlay of Llandaff||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Foster of Bath||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Lord||Goddard of Stockport||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Lord||Harries of Pentregarth||Peer||Crossbench|
|Baroness||Harris of Richmond||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Healy of Primrose Hill||Peer||Labour|
|Lord||Jones of Cheltenham||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Jones of Moulsecoomb||Peer||Green|
|Lord||Kerr of Kinlochard||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Knight of Weymouth||Peer||Labour|
|Baroness||Lister of Burtersett||Peer||Labour|
|Baroness||Masham of Ilton||Peer||Crossbench|
|Lord||Philips of Worth Matravers||Peer||Crossbench|
|Baroness||Ritchie of Downpatrick||Peer||SDLP|
|Lord||Roberts of Llandudno||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Royall of Blaisdon||Peer||Labour|
|Lord||Singh of Wimbledon||Peer||Crossbench|
|Baroness||Smith of Newnham||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Thomas of Winchester||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Tyler of Enfield||Peer||Lib Dem|
|Baroness||Watkins Of Tavistok||Peer||Crossbench|
|Baroness||Young of Old Scone||Peer||Labour|