UK refuses to sign global vaccine treaty, The Telegraph reports

COVID-19 vaccinations in Smallthorne

(Reuters) - Britain is refusing to sign the World Health Organization's (WHO) pandemic accord because the country says it would have to give away a fifth of its vaccines, the Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

According to a draft of the pandemic accord being negotiated at the WHO, richer countries should be asked to pull their weight in helping the world cope with pandemics, including reserving 20% of tests, treatments and vaccines for the WHO to distribute in poorer countries during emergencies.

"We will only support the adoption of the accord and accept it on behalf of the UK, if it is firmly in the UK national interest and respects national sovereignty," a spokesperson for Britain's Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement to Reuters.

The spokesperson did not comment on the details of the specific proposals from the accord, adding that "no proposals have been agreed."

The WHO did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The new pact and a series of updates to existing rules for dealing with pandemics from the WHO are intended to shore up the world's defenses against new pathogens after the COVID-19 pandemic killed millions of people.

One of the main points of disagreement between wealthy countries and developing states is the vexed issue of sharing drugs and vaccines fairly.

Countries are due to finalise negotiations on the accord on May 10, with a view to adopting it at the WHO's annual meeting later this month.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that countries need to agree to the accord within the deadline to help fight future pandemics, adding that countries who did not fully agree with the text to at least refrain from blocking consensus among WHO's 194 member states.

(Reporting by Rishabh Jaiswal and Urvi Dugar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonali Paul and Aurora Ellis)