'Selfish' UK condemned for hoarding vaccines as poorer countries struggle to inoculate citizens

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/05/01: A Covid-19 vaccinator holds vials containing Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a medical centre being used as vaccination centre in north London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The UK has been criticised for securing more vaccines than it needs. (Getty)

The UK has been called “selfish” for securing more COVID-19 vaccines than it needs for its population.

A report on the pandemic has criticised the UK, the US, Canada and other wealthy nations for ordering more doses than they require as some countries struggle to inoculate their people.

The report, titled How An Outbreak Became A Pandemic, said “vaccine nationalism” had created “a force to be feared and a problem to be reckoned with”.

Britain, which has a population of 67 million, has deals for 517 million doses of eight different coronavirus vaccines, some of which remain under development.

A health worker injects a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccine centre set up at City Hall in Hull, northeast England on May 7, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The UK has deals for 517 million doses of eight different coronavirus vaccines. (Getty)

The International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) report said: “Vaccine access and distribution takes place now in a highly charged and political environment.

“Governments are struggling to meet demands to take care of their own people, even as they address the greater good.

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“In this sense vaccine nationalism is not just a selfishness to be condemned, but a force to be feared and a problem to be reckoned with.

“As of now, high-income countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States and across the EU have been able to secure vaccine doses that would be enough to cover 200% and more of their populations.”

The report added that lack of funding for COVAX, a programme to distribute COVID vaccines to some of the world's poorest people, had contributed to its supply issues.

Last month, Boris Johnson refused to send extra vaccines to India, with his official spokesman saying: “We don’t have surplus doses."

On Wednesday, India posted a record rise in COVID deaths over the previous 24 hours, pushing its total fatalities past 250,000.

According to health ministry data, COVID deaths swelled by 4,205, while daily coronavirus cases rose by 348,421, with India’s overall caseload now surging past 23 million.

Senior citizens above 45 years old vaccinated in the drive-in vaccination program by the city municipality in the eastern Indian state Odisha's capital city Bhubaneswar on May 12, 2021.  (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A drive-in vaccination programme in eastern India. (Getty)

The IPPPR report said the worldwide vaccine rollout based on public-health needs had failed.

It suggested the main issue going forward would be reaching “a political agreement for sharing and redistributing available doses of vaccine and committed doses based on what is best from a global public-health perspective with equity at the centre".

The report added: “There is an agreement that covering only your own population will not end the pandemic but moving from that rhetoric to an actual effective flow and allocation of vaccine doses as they become available is critical to the fight against COVID-19.”

It made several recommendations, including establishing free trade and flow of ingredients and material to produce vaccines, making investments in additional manufacturing capacity and technology transfer and improving access to diagnostics and therapeutics.

The report said there will potentially be a demand for 5 billion booster vaccinations globally every year for the foreseeable future.

MUMBAI, INDIA - MAY 11: Angry senior citizens vent their ire as PK Road Municipal School was found closed and had to return without vaccination due to vaccine shortage in Mulund, on May 11, 2021 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Praful Gangurde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Vaccine shortages have meant some people in India cannot receive their shots. (Getty)

Unicef UK estimated that Britain could give away 20% of its projected available stock and still meet its target to give all adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of July.

The UK government has defended itself against claims it is not doing enough to distribute vaccines globally.

A spokesperson said: “The UK has played a leading role in championing global access to coronavirus vaccines.

“We are one of the largest donors to COVAX, providing £548m to deliver more than a billion vaccines to lower-middle income countries this year.

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“So far, this funding has already helped deliver vaccines to more than 70 countries, including 38 across Africa.

“The prime minister has confirmed the UK will share the majority of any future surplus coronavirus vaccines from our supply with the COVAX pool, when these are available.”

Meanwhile, the IPPPR report also recommended a new global system be set up to respond faster to disease outbreaks, which could lessen the impact of future pandemics.

Experts found crucial flaws in the global response in early 2020 – including a delay in declaring an emergency, a failure to impose travel restrictions and an entire "lost month" when countries neglected to respond to warnings – that let the virus quickly spread into a catastrophic pandemic.

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