UK to donate 100 million doses of Covid vaccines to poorer countries
The UK will donate 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines which were ordered for the use of British people but not needed to poorer countries over the next year, Boris Johnson will announce today at the G7 summit.
The Government's decision to order far more doses than needed to cover the whole UK population, in case some of the vaccines were not proven to work, means there are likely to be a huge number of spare jabs left over.
Britain is already one of the largest donors to Covax, the global scheme to send vaccines to countries which cannot afford them. The donation of spare doses is in addition to that funding.
The cost of the vaccines will be officially classified as "overseas development aid", which means it forms part of the foreign aid budget - allowing ministers to claim they have softened the impact of aid cuts brought in after the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
Only 5 million vaccines will be distributed by the end of September, with a further 25 million committed later this year and the rest coming in the first half of 2022. The Prime Minister's announcement comes after US President Joe Biden promised to donate 500 million doses.
From the UK's donation - likely to include doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen - 80 million will go to Covax to be distributed through the scheme and the other 20 million will be given bilaterally, allowing Britain to conduct the same sort of "vaccine diplomacy" carried out by Russia and China to curry favour with other countries.
Mr Johnson said: "As a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them. In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good. At the G7 summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus."
As part of the UK's deal with AstraZeneca to develop the Oxford vaccine, the pharmaceutical giant agreed to provide the jab free to poor countries permanently. Britain wants other G7 countries to encourage their own drug manufacturers to adopt a similar model, rather than profiting from the distribution of vaccines around the world.
The donation of 500 million Pfizer doses by the US - comparable in size to the UK's donation, adjusted per head of population - is expected to cost Mr Biden's administration $3.5bn. Charity campaigners are lobbying governments to remove intellectual property protection on Covid-19 vaccines, so that more manufacturers can start making the jabs.
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