Two thirds of Britons do not want rich countries to have vaccine priority


Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK say they do not want rich countries to get priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations over poorer countries amid warnings that a huge swathe of the world is yet to administer a single dose of the life-saving jab.

Two-thirds of people questioned also said the UK government should press pharmaceutical companies to share their Covid vaccine formula to allow doses to be rolled out faster.

The poll, commissioned by Christian Aid, comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ children’s agency said that 10 countries accounted for three-quarters of the 128 million vaccine doses administered worldwide by the middle of last week. Almost 130 countries with a population totalling 2.5 billion had yet to vaccinate anyone, they said.

“This self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods, give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines, and will undermine a global economic recovery,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said in a statement.

The pair called on governments that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk of severe disease to share supplies. “We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity,” they said.

Earlier this month, Tanzania’s health minister said the country had “no plans in place to accept Covid-19 vaccines”, saying she was not satisfied that they had been clinically proven safe. At a news conference, Dorothy Gwajima and health officials drank a concoction of herbs, ginger, garlic, and lemons, and inhaled steam, claiming it was natural means of killing the virus, the Lancet reported.

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Dorothy Gwajima, Health minister, Tanzania.
Dorothy Gwajima, Tanzania’s health minister, said the country had no plans to accept Covid vaccines. Photograph: Youtube

More than 180 countries have signed up to the Covax initiative, which is supported by the WHO and international vaccine advocacy groups. Its aim is to form countries into blocs to give them more power to negotiate with drug companies. Ninety-two low or middle-income countries will have their vaccines paid for by a fund sponsored by donors. The UK government has given £548m to the Covax programme.

The Christian Aid survey, carried out by Savanta ComRes earlier this month, found that 63% of respondents wanted to see nations cooperate to develop a vaccine programme that would not prioritise developed countries. Just over one in 10 people disagreed.

The charity says developing countries are making cuts to existing budgets and increasing debt to buy vaccines for their populations.

Fionna Smyth, Christian Aid’s head of global advocacy and policy, said: “While international efforts to fund vaccines in the World Health Organization’s Covax programme have been helpful, the Covax vaccines are delayed and are not expected to reach adequate vaccine coverage in the countries where they are issued.

“Our best chance of all staying safe from Covid-19 is to have vaccines, tests and treatments that are available for all. This crisis needs governments and the big pharmaceutical companies urgently to raise their sights, to be imaginative and generous, and to act for the global good and deliver tangible results fast.”



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