Time for us to step up as global citizens - Scotsman comment

For all its failings in handling the coronavirus pandemic, the UK government appears to have got at least one thing right: the vaccination programme.

As the UK population becomes increasingly immunised against Covid the Government must do more to ensure the distribution of supplies around the world.

As in other wealthy countries, officials have bought more than we need in order to hedge our bets in an unprecedented health emergency. Recent figures sugggest 11.9 doses have been administered per 100 people in the UK, compared with 7.4 in the US.

In the EU, however, the figure is just 2.4 and the bloc has been heavily criticised for being slow off the mark in approving, purchasing and administering the drugs.

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The short-lived unilateral move by Brussels on Friday night to override the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland and control shipments of doses - thereby risking a hard border with the Republic - is perhaps evidence of the intense and mounting pressure on EU political leaders as citizens grow restive.

Warnings of "vaccine nationalism" are almost as old as the pandemic itself and now those dangers are coming to the fore. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, the UK and other wealthy nations will have too much vaccine and the focus in the fight against coronavirus will move towards ensuring distribution around the world. In Africa, for example, fewer than one in 10,000 people have been vaccinated. But for now political leaders are focused on looking after their own populations and, perhaps inevitably, international relations are becoming frayed.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss was asked how the UK government might handle a surplus of doses yesterday. She said: "We certainly want to work with friends and neighbours, we want to work with developing countries because we're only going to solve this issue once everybody in the world is vaccinated."

This ethical egoism is entirely logical. We will help other countries because it is in our interests to do so. But this must not be the only reason; we should also help other countries because it is the right thing to do.

As we grow more immune to coronavirus we must also rise to the challenge of being good global citizens by facilitating the rollout of vaccination programmes in countries less fortunate in terms of supply than our own.