Up to one million more people could die needlessly of Covid unless wealthier countries share hoarded jabs, warns Gordon Brown.
The global vaccine campaigner and Labour former Prime Minister speaks out today ahead of a summit in the US on Monday led by President Joe Biden.
Seldom can one peacetime event have more lives resting on its success: for ONE MILLION LIVES hover in the balance when the global vaccines summit, convened by President Biden, takes place in New York this coming Monday.
A sword of Damocles still hangs over the entire world. Over the next year, it is estimated 100m more people stand to contract Covid.
And with deaths worldwide still rising at the rate of 60,000 a week, that means anything between 1m and 2m lives could yet be lost to Covid.
In June 2021, Boris Johnson promised he and the leaders of the world’s richest seven economies would ensure the vaccination of the whole world by the end of 2022.
To achieve this, they offered to hand over 870m vaccines to Africa and low-income countries. But three months on, just 100m doses have been shared with them.
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And with only 2% of Africa vaccinated and thousands of unvaccinated nurses and health workers still risking their lives to save lives, deaths are rising fast.
But there is a way forward – made possible by the remarkable increase in worldwide production of vaccines – from 500m vaccines a month in April to 1.5bn now and soon 2bn.
By January, there will be enough vaccines – 14bn – to double-vaccinate every single adult in the world .By June we will have manufactured 27bn vaccines – enough to vaccinate all of us fully twice over.
The issue now is, no longer a vaccine shortage, but the inexplicable failure to distribute them fairly and keep the death toll down.
What’s going wrong?
Over-ordering and over-purchasing by the UK, USA Europe and Canada are creating stockpiling of unused vaccines.
It is estimated these stockpiles, plus vaccines on order for delivery, will total 300m by the end of this month, 500m by the end of October and over 1b by the end of the year.
And some of these vaccines will near their ‘use by’ dates when they could so easily be redirected to saving lives elsewhere .
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So, the September 20th summit can save hundreds of thousands of lives simply by transferring the Global North’s unused stocks to the Global South and by switching some of the west’s delivery contracts to COVAX the international bulk purchasing agency for vaccines – and then fully funding it to deliver shots to Africa and other low-income countries this year and next.
And it’s not at the cost of boosters for us or vaccinating the over 12s. If we sequence it is possible to vaccinate all who need shots in both rich and poor countries To build the capacity of health care systems to administer vaccines and prevent further disease ACT-A – the global bulk purchasing agency for oxygen, diagnostics, ventilators and masks – should be given the $30b a year it needs.
And if China were persuaded to join in, we could vaccinate the whole world even more quickly.
There are, of course, longer-term proposals I support for technology transfer, licensing agreements and even patent waivers to ensure each continent has its own vaccine manufacturing capacity.
But the urgency is now: no-one has the right to suffer, especially when we have vaccines available. Let’s not waste our precious vaccines by hoarding them.
In four days time we must bring to an end the immoral divide between the world’s vaccine rich and vaccine poor.