Vaccinate low-income countries before giving boosters to healthy over-50s in the UK - APPG on Coronavirus
The APPG on Coronavirus has called on the UK Government to prioritise donating vaccines to the COVAX scheme ahead of giving boosters to healthy over-50s in the UK. The group does support a booster programme for the vulnerable and immuno-suppressed.
MPs also warn that low global vaccination rates mean Covid-19 “will continue to pose a serious threat to the UK’s public health, economy and security” and that inequitable access to vaccines poses a “serious risk of repeating the medical divide witnessed during the HIV/AIDS crisis”.
Calls for the prioritisation of donations to the COVAX scheme come as recent statistics show that the UK currently has 442 million vaccines on order, more than enough to double vaccinate the entire UK population three times over.
A new report published today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus has called on the UK Government to prioritise donating vaccines to the COVAX scheme ahead of offering boosters jabs to healthy over-50s in the UK.
Back in June this year the Prime Minister called on G7 nations to join the UK, in committing to vaccinating the world by the end of 2022, “to end this terrible pandemic”. Recent data compiled by Our World in Data, showed the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered. The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines after the United States, promising 100 million doses to Covax. However, so far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.
Latest figures also reveal that only 1.9% of people in low income countries have received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Conversely, the UK currently has 442 million doses of the Covid vaccine on order, which is approximately enough to fully vaccinate the entire population of the UK three times over including those who are currently ineligible for the jab.
In a report published today, the group of cross-party MPs and Peers asserted that preventing dangerous variants overseas by increasing global vaccination should be prioritised over giving healthy people in the UK a top-up of their Covid protection.
In the report, MPs warn that low global vaccination rates mean Covid-19 “will continue to pose a serious threat to the UK’s public health, economy and security” and that inequitable access to vaccines poses a “serious risk of repeating the medical divide witnessed during the HIV/AIDS crisis”.
The MPs are urging the UK Government to adopt a formal process that would see the UK donating one dose of Covid-19 vaccine for every dose imported and administered in the UK to COVAX. In addition to this the group called on the Government to increase domestic vaccine production capacity and support the WTO TRIPS waiver proposal, to boost vaccine manufacturing capability in low- and middle-income countries.
On Tuesday the UK Government announced its plans to roll out a vaccine booster programme for over 50s while also announcing plans to vaccinate 12-15 year olds across the UK. In contrast to this announcement, the APPG has recommended that the UK Government should first prioritise making vaccines available to vulnerable children and children living in households with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and that the UK booster campaign should be limited to vulnerable and immuno-suppressed adults.
Other recommendations for the UK Government within the report include:
- The UK should immediately and rapidly expand the UK’s domestic vaccine production capability to meet the ongoing domestic vaccine demand and with the objective of becoming a net vaccine exporter.
- In addition to increasing NHS funding to cover the additional costs and elective care backlogs created by Covid-19, the UK government must produce a plan to permanently increase NHS and Care Sector capacity including the recruitment of doctors, nurses and medical staff.
- The UK government commits to adopting all recommendations outlined in the SAGE report ‘Long term evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and in addition to this the UK government must urgently produce contingency plans for each scenario outlined by SAGE and provide regular updates to Parliament on preparations made.
Layla Moran MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus said:
“While it is right that we offer boosters to the vulnerable and immune-suppressed, vaccinating the world is the only way we can reduce the risk of future, more deadly variants entering the UK.
“It is reckless for this Government to stand idly by and allow for the disgraceful medical divide that the world witnessed during the HIV/AIDS crisis to repeat itself with Covid-19.
“For this reason alone, work to share doses with other countries must be organised into a formal one-in-one-out system and not carried out in the piecemeal way it has been so far.”
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard FMedSci, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group said:
“While the UK vaccination programme has been brilliantly executed by the NHS, the hard truth is that globally, there aren’t enough doses in people’s arms.
"COVAX is the right vehicle to address this and it is essential that vaccines are made available across the world to ensure a sustainable recovery from this pandemic."
Caroline Lucas MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus said:
“We simply cannot ignore the humanitarian disaster unfolding in low-income countries, where the virus is surging and vulnerable people and healthcare workers remain largely unvaccinated.
“In his announcement this week the Health Secretary stated that booster jabs will ‘strengthen’ the UK’s ‘wall of defence’ against Covid, but Ministers must recognise that no matter how strong our defences at home we will not be safe from new variants as long as the virus continues to rage overseas.”