Call for Nicola Sturgeon to take action over vaccine monopoly

Scottish vaccine campaigners have urged Nicola Sturgeon to call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back plans to end pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly control of vaccines after it emerged that the UK has delivered fewer vaccines than promised to a global scheme to help poorer nations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament. (Photo by JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK Government has only delivered 9.6 million – less than 10 per cent - of the 100 million doses it promised to poorer nations. Meanwhile it has itself taken half a million doses from COVAX, a new report published today by the People’s Vaccine Alliance has revealed.

Scottish members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Oxfam Scotland, Global Justice Now Scotland and Christian Aid Scotland, say the UK Government’s actions amount to a “staggering act of selfishness” and are urging Nicola Sturgeon to speak out.

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Campaigners say the UK’s position is not only morally wrong but, with less than two per cent of people in developing countries fully vaccinated, that it could have grave consequences for Scotland. It warned that allowing Covid to run unchecked across the world could give rise to deadly mutations, rendering existing vaccines obsolete and potentially leading to further unnecessary loss of life and more painful lockdowns here.

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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.”

The Alliance is asking the UK Government to instead support proposals – already backed by over 100 countries, including the US and France, to compel companies to share their lifesaving vaccine recipes and technology in order to urgently increase supply.

The coalition is calling for the First Minister to support a motion in the Scottish Parliament, laid by Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Sarah Boyack MSP, and already supported by 55 MSPs, which calls for the Prime Minister to back plans to waive intellectual property rules and insist that the vaccine know-how and technology is shared via the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool.

Sally Foster-Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: “Developing countries have been hit with an endless tide of inadequate gestures and broken promises from rich countries like the UK, which are simultaneously blocking the real solutions to vaccine inequality.”

She added: “Protecting lives – both here in Scotland and around the world – should be more important than protecting the outsized profits of pharmaceutical corporations who have already made billions from this crisis.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While Scotland has an impressive uptake of vaccination, we continue to engage with the UK Government and the COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce to consider how we can help accelerate global vaccine.

“Our £10 million international development fund has supported Covid-specific initiatives in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan and it will increase to £15 million in April. Last year we gave £2.5 million to UNICEF to help vaccine distribution, roll-out and online healthcare education; 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.”

He added: “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.”

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