London, July 28: The UK will this week begin delivering 9 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world for lower-income countries to help tackle the pandemic, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced on Wednesday.
Five million doses are being offered to COVAX, the worldwide scheme to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, which will be urgently distributed through an allocation system which prioritises delivering vaccines to countries who most need them.
Another 4 million doses will be shared directly, with Indonesia to receive 600,000 doses, Jamaica 300,000 and 817,000 for Kenya among the list of countries. The doses being donated are the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca collaboration vaccine, made by Oxford Biomedica in Oxford and packaged in Wrexham, north Wales.
“The UK is sending nine million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of the 100 million doses we’ve pledged, to get the most vulnerable parts of the world vaccinated as a matter of urgency,” said Raab.
“We’re doing this to help the most vulnerable, but also because we know we won’t be safe until everyone is safe,” he said.
This marks the first tranche of the 100 million vaccines Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged the UK would share within the next year at last month’s G-7 Summit in Cornwall, with 30 million due to be sent by the end of the year.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has said at least 80 million of the 100 million doses will go to COVAX, with the rest going to countries directly.
“This is a global pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect people and prevent the emergence of new variants. We want to make sure developing countries can build a wall of defence against the virus as we have in the UK through our vaccine rollout,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“The UK is one of the largest donors to COVAX and this donation is part of our pledge to send 100 million vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries. The government has secured enough doses for all UK residents, crown dependencies and overseas territories to support our ongoing vaccination programme and booster programme,” he said.
The FCDO says its donations follow the pledge that G-7 leaders made to vaccinate the world and end the pandemic in 2022. This week’s deployment is aimed at helping meet the urgent need for vaccines from countries around the world, including in Africa, South East Asia and the Caribbean, as these regions are experiencing high levels of Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is co-leading COVAX alongside the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: “The UK has been a steadfast supporter of COVAX since its inception and this announcement comes at an important time.
“Global vaccine demand is far outstripping supply, leaving millions of the most vulnerable unprotected, while higher vaccine coverage worldwide is one of our best shields against new variants. In this pandemic nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”
Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, added: “Each day we’re making progress in our mission to change the course of this pandemic by providing broad and equitable access to AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
“We are proud that over 80 per cent of countries across the world have received doses of our vaccine, with two thirds supplied to lower middle income and low income countries.”
The FCDO says the 9 million UK-branded Oxford/AstraZeneca doses being donated are not needed for the domestic rollout.
The UK has signed agreements with Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cambodia, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand and Vietnam to receive up to 4 million doses. The vaccine doses being donated on a bilateral basis are being transported by Crown Agents, a not-for-profit international development company. (PTI)