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Global vaccine scandal: rich countries and big business deprive the poorest of vital jabs

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Scotland's first minister asked to back call for fair vaccine roll-out

Scotland’s first minister has been urged to speak out on “shameful” statistics which show how rich countries and big business are depriving poorer nations of vital Covid vaccines.

A new report show that pharmaceutical companies and rich nations are delivering just one in seven of the vaccine doses promised for the developing world.  

Authors of A Dose of Reality found that of the 1.8 billion Covid vaccine donations promised by rich nations only 261 million doses – 14% – have been delivered to date, while western drugs firms have delivered only 12% of the doses they allocated to COVAX, the initiative designed to help low and middle-income countries get fair access to Covid vaccines. 

The UK government, which has been actively blocking calls from countries like South Africa and India to be allowed to make their own vaccines, has only delivered 9.6 million – less than 10% - of the 100m doses it promised to poorer nations.

Meanwhile it has itself taken half a million doses from COVAX, despite extreme vaccine shortages in developing countries and having already secured more than enough doses for British people from direct deals with the pharmaceutical companies. 

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 and put the pressure on. 

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.

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. 

Charities say the first minister must call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back plans to end pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly control of vaccines, which is placing a deadly stranglehold on global supply.

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.”

With a week to go before leaders meet for the G20 summit in Rome, The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling on them to stop breaking their promises to vaccinate the world. The alliance is instead 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. 

Liz Murray, head of campaigns at Global Justice Now Scotland, said: “With thousands of people dying around the world from Covid every day, it’s utterly shameful that even the pathetically small number of vaccines offered by rich countries haven’t been delivered. The first minister must urge the UK government to end its indefensible protection of the monopolies of pharmaceutical corporations which is artificially restricting the supply of vaccines – particularly to low income countries. Grand plans to vaccinate the world will not be delivered by empty promises, but with the suspending of those monopolies.”

The coalition is calling for the first minister to throw her weight behind a motion in the Scottish Parliament, laid by Scottish Labour’s Sarah Boyack MSP, and already supported by 55 MSPs.  

The motion 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, enabling a life-saving ramping up in global vaccine production. 

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. 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 £2.5m 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% 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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