Gordon Brown: Western leaders 'holding all the cards' and 'must act now' to vaccinate world against COVID-19

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Former prime minister Gordon Brown has accused rich countries of committing a "moral outrage" by stockpiling hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines while many poorer countries are struggling to access any.

Mr Brown said that 200 million vaccines were lying unused or were about to arrive in American and European warehouses.

By the end of October the number would be 500 million, he said, citing research by data firm Airfinity - enough to immunise almost half of Africa, where just 70 million people have been vaccinated.

He wrote in the Sunday Mirror: "We are in a new arms race - to get vaccines into people as quickly as possible - but this is an arms race where the West has a stranglehold on the vaccine supplies

"Already vaccines have saved 80,000 lives in the UK but denying vaccines - that are surplus here - to poor countries is a stain on the world's conscience and represents a catastrophic moral failure in international cooperation.

"If the world was one state, it would be declared a failed state."

Mr Brown, who is a United Nations special envoy, said US President Joe Biden and other leaders in the G7 (the world's leading industrialised nations) should urgently ship vaccines from their warehouses to Africa.

He also said vaccine inequality was stopping Covax - the international facility intended to help poorer countries access vaccines - from meeting its promise to send two billion doses to needy parts of the world this year.

"It's in our interest to help Africa prevent the COVID disease mutating there to stop it returning to our shores. None of us will be safe anywhere until all are safe everywhere," he added.

"Only Biden, Johnson, Merkel and Macron can bridge the growing divide between the world's vaccine rich and vaccine poor.

"These leaders are holding all the cards. They have the monopoly on vaccine orders.

"They have the money to pay for vaccines to be sent to Africa. Who lives and who dies is in their hands. And they can switch delivery contracts and transfer vaccine orders from the west to Africa."

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In April, the World Health Organisation's director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was a "shocking imbalance" in the global distribution of vaccines.

Mr Brown said that unless Western leaders decided to help vaccinate the world, they would "condemn countless more to preventable deaths, let COVID spread uninhibited in the poorest parts of the world and allow it to come back to haunt us all - even the fully vaccinated.

"It's time to act to end what has become a moral outrage and we must act now."

Gordon Brown will be a guest on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News at 8.30am. He will talk about vaccinations, Afghanistan and public spending.

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