UK could share 20% of its available Covid vaccines with poorer countries and still hit its target of offering a jab to every adult AHEAD of schedule, UNICEF claims
- The UK has already ordered 517million doses of different coronavirus vaccines
- But it only needs 160million to vaccinate all adults and give them booster jabs
- Analysis claims UK could have enough leftover to fully vaccinate 50m people
Britain should give away a fifth of its Covid vaccines to help poorer countries protect their citizens, UNICEF said today.
The UK has orders for 517million doses but only needs around 160m to vaccinate all adults and give them booster jabs in the autumn, as planned.
Analysis by the UK arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund claims that the country could have enough leftover doses to fully vaccinate 50m people – the population of Spain or South Korea.
And if all the vaccines currently in trials are approved this would soar to 115m, it said – almost double the population of South Africa.
Campaigners warned hogging vaccines and allowing the virus to continue spreading elsewhere would raise the risk of a new variant emerging and coming back to wreak havoc in Britain.
UNICEF said Britain could share 20 per cent of its current supply and still hit its goal of offering every adult a vaccine by the end of July. It claimed the UK could reach the target by July 9 and sharing the doses would only push it back by 10 days.
‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid,’ said UNICEF UK’s Joanna Rea.
Two thirds of adults in the UK have now had at least one vaccine dose and almost 18million are fully vaccinated. Real-world data suggests the jabs prevent eight to nine out of 10 severe Covid cases, almost all deaths and also slash transmission of the virus by half.
The UK has enough vaccine supplies on order to immunise the entire adult population many times over, including booster doses in the autumn
Britain could approve Covid vaccines for children within weeks following US health chiefs’ decision to green light the move, UK scientists said today.
America’s regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), last night approved plans for the Pfizer jab to be given to children aged 12 and above.
No10 has reportedly already drawn up plans to vaccinate secondary school-aged children with Pfizer’s two-dose jab from September.
But experts are divided on whether Britain should press ahead with the policy, given that youngsters are at such tiny risk of Covid.
Professor Anthony Brookes, professor of genetics and genome biology at the University of Leicester, told MailOnline: ‘We should be worried about the completely unknown and unknowable long-term risks of vaccination of the young.’
Dr Simon Clarke, an infectious disease expert at Reading University, said he expected British regulators to also approve the vaccine for children.
But he added: ‘I don’t see any problem with vaccinating children – but it has to be recognised that it is only being done for wider society.’
Giving children coronavirus vaccines is morally complicated, and UK health chiefs have already said it would only be done if it was deemed necessary.
Advocates of the move argue it would help protect older people by allowing Britain to move one step closer to ‘herd immunity’, curbing the spread of the virus.
They also warn that while the immediate harms of Covid seem small to children, the dangers of ‘long Covid’ on them are still somewhat unknown.
But critics say offering jabs to children would be unethical because it would only be done to protect older people — not youngsters themselves.
UNICEF estimated that Britain could give away 20 per cent of its projected available stock and still meet its target to give all adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of July.
But it is not clear how many vaccines the UK is currently sitting on because of commercial agreements to keep the figures private.
The only data provided is the number of doses of each jab that have been dished out — 28.5million of AstraZeneca, 19.5m of Pfizer and 100,000 of Moderna.
The charity warned that the success of the vaccination programme in the UK could be ‘reversed’ if supply is not shared.
Concerns have been raised that while the virus rages in other parts of the world there is more chance for new variants to emerge.
And experts have suggested that new variants could potentially escape the protection afforded by the vaccines.
UNICEF UK called on the Government and other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – to start sharing vaccines through Covax from June.
Ms Rea said: ‘The UK has done a fantastic job in rolling out Covid vaccines to more than half of its adult population and we should all be proud of what has been achieved.
‘However, we can’t ignore that the UK and other G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population – and we risk leaving low-income countries behind.
‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid-19.
‘Our vaccine rollout success could be reversed and the NHS could be fighting another wave of the virus due to deadly mutations.’
On Monday Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the way to prevent or minimise the number of new variants is to ‘get on top of’ the pandemic globally.
And the World Health Organization said there was a ‘shocking disparity’ in access to Covid vaccines between rich and poor countries.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing: ‘The shocking global disparity in access to Covid vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.
‘High and upper-middle income countries represent 53 per cent of the world’s population, but have received 83 per cent of the world’s vaccines.
‘By contrast, low and lower-middle income countries account for 47 per cent of the world’s population, but have received just 17 per cent of the world’s vaccines.’
He added: ‘How quickly we end the Covid pandemic and how many sisters and brothers we lose along on the way, depends on how quickly and how fairly we vaccinate a significant proportion of the population and how consistently we all follow proven public health measures.’
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