The UK will, over the next 12 months, donate a minimum of 100-million surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses to countries all around the world. This was announced on Friday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ahead of the start of the summit of the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democratic powers, being held in the English county of Cornwall.
This donation is in addition to the UK’s support for the international Covax Covid-19 vaccine funding and distribution programme. Britain has so far pledged £548-million to Covax, making it the fourth largest donor to the scheme. To date, Covax has supplied 81-million vaccine doses to 129 poor and developing countries.
(Of the doses distributed by Covax, 96% were of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with the support of, including funding from, the British government. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed specifically to be easy to transport and store and the doses of this vaccine are currently being distributed worldwide on a not-for-profit basis.)
Of the 100-million doses to be donated by the UK, five-million will be donated by the end of September and another 25-million by the end of this year. The remainder will be distributed during the first half of next year. In terms of assignment, 80% will be given to Covax and 20% will be distributed bilaterally to needy countries. The cost of the donation will be classified as ‘overseas development assistance’ (foreign aid) but its funding will be additional to, and not drawn from, the aid budget for this year.
The announcement was preceded, a week ago, by an appeal from Johnson to his fellow G7 leaders to unite to vaccinate the whole world by the end of next year. It was expected that, at the summit, the G7 leaders would agree to provide at least one-billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to poor countries. This would be achieved both by sharing vaccine doses and by providing financing. The G7 leaders were also expected to agree a plan to expand vaccine production to meet the demand.
“Over a year ago we funded the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the basis it would be distributed at cost to the world,” pointed out Johnson. “This unprecedented model, which puts people squarely above profit, means over half-a-billion doses have been administered in 160 countries so far. 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.”
The G7 summit will also discuss increasing the number of girls into school, worldwide. Johnson stated that the joint goal “must be” to increase the numbers of girls in schools by 40-million by 2025. Climate change and environmental protection would be major themes as well.
The G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. The summit will also be attended by representatives of the European Union. Prime Minister Johnson invited South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the leaders of Australia, India and South Korea to also attend.