UK near top of ‘league table of shame’ for delivering just 7pc of Covid jabs promised to poor countries

·5-min read
Data compiled by Our World in Data show the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered - Mamyrael / AFP
Data compiled by Our World in Data show the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered - Mamyrael / AFP

The UK has delivered less than seven per cent of the vaccines it has promised to developing countries, coming near the bottom in what critics are calling a “league table of shame”.

Data compiled by Our World in Data, a research hub based at the University of Oxford, show the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.

The data looks at donations to Covax, the initiative to share vaccines globally, and finds that of the 554 million doses promised by the world's richest nations, only 90.8 million, or 16 per cent, have been delivered.

The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines after the United States, promising 80 million doses to Covax. But is towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to delivery. So far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.

As the chart below shows, the UK is ahead of Germany, Spain and Canada but is behind France, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and the United States.

Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union’s Vaccine Delivery Alliance, told The Telegraph that “in an Olympic year, with all that’s meant to represent, this is definitely the global solidarity league table of shame”.

She warned Britain is also at risk of forfeiting its place as an international leader. “The Foreign Office and Department for International Development used to be so respected and revered. But all of that seems to have dwindled away.”

Dr Alakija added that she has been “disappointed” by a lack of global solidarity around vaccine distribution worldwide, and warned “wealthy countries are playing politics with the lives of millions of people”.

“There’s no true thought, no true strategy, and no true humanity behind any of this,” she warned. “It’s so ad-hoc.”

‘A logistical nightmare’

Where vaccines have been donated, she said, many are nearing their expiry dates. For instance, the bulk of nine million shots promised by the UK at the very end of July had to be used by late September – and many only arrived in countries in late August.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” said Dr Alakija. “Vaccines are arriving, and [authorities are] having to rush them out to places without advance notice”. She added that it remains unclear when, or if, countries will see enough supply down the line to provide second doses.

The UK announced it was starting a booster campaign on Tuesday, with all those over 50 to receive a third shot of vaccine six months after their second dose.

Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the fact that nine other countries had already launched booster campaigns and 18 others were considering them justified the UK’s decision when others around the world were waiting for their first jab.

“We are not alone,” he said.

Last week, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on booster shots until the new year as Covax downgraded vaccine supply forecasts for 2021 by 25 per cent due to global export bans, bumpy production and slower than expected regulatory approval.

“Doses that are shared now save more lives than doses that become available in six months,” Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), a founder of Covax, told journalists last week.

“Even if the science shows that boosters provide value, the value per dose delivered will be greatest if we deliver primary vaccinations to high risk populations that are unvaccinated,” he said.

Biden pledges to vaccinate 70pc of globe within a year

Next week global leaders are set to descend on the UN General Assembly, where US president Joe Biden is expected to urge richer countries to share doses – with an aim of vaccinated 70 per cent of the global population by next September.

“Increasing the speed and volume of dose sharing in 2021 is critical if we are to address supply constraints faced by Covax and ensure high-risk groups and health workers in low and lower-middle income countries receive vaccines,” said Joanna Rea, director of advocacy for Unicef UK. “Further donations to Covax are urgently needed.”

Jenny Ottenhoff, senior policy director for global health at the One Campaign, added: “It’s outrageous that a year and a half into the pandemic and rich countries still aren’t taking the global response seriously. The G7 need to stop hoarding vaccines and deliver on the promises they’ve made, and soon.”

But analysis by Airfinity has suggested the world will have enough shots to do both. The data company found wealthy countries will have 1.2 billion surplus vaccines by the end of 2021, even after vaccinating children and offering boosters, adding weight to the argument that the problem is no longer supply but distribution.

At a WHO press conference on Tuesday, leaders from Africa – where just two countries have reached targets to vaccinate 40 per cent of their populations, the lowest of any region – argued that donations alone will not solve the global imbalance.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, suggested "manufacturers [are] prioritising bilateral deals and many high-income countries tying up the global supply of vaccines", and urged more transparency around supply and delivery timelines.

Responding to suggestions the UK has not done enough for the global rollout a spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Britain has contributed more than Covax donations alone represent.

“We have committed to donate 100 million doses by June 2022, and have already delivered over 9 million doses to developing nations across Africa and Asia. On top of this, UK funding is helping to provide around 1.8 billion vaccines to low- and middle-income countries through COVAX by early 2022.”

Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting