Demand to share surplus COVID vaccine equitably

by Seren Boyd

The BMA is calling on the Government to boost efforts to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are distributed equitably across the globe, ahead of an international summit this week.

Location: International
Last reviewed: 20 September 2021
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It has written to the Prime Minister urging him to show global leadership in sharing surplus vaccine doses with countries where vaccine coverage is still low.

Just over 3 per cent of people in low-income countries have received one vaccine dose, compared with more than 60 per cent of people in the highest-income countries. Yet, achieving full vaccination for 75 per cent of the world’s population would take just six months if delivered equitably, the BMA writes.

Early calls for vaccine equity – on the ground that ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’ ‒ have been no more than warm words as richer nations have focused mainly on domestic vaccine rollouts.

‘Setting aside the strong moral arguments for global vaccine equity, it is also in the UK’s interests,’ writes BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul. ‘Ensuring high rates of vaccine coverage in all countries will reduce the risk of new, potentially vaccine-resistant variants emerging – variants which will inevitably make their way to our own shores.’

More to do

The BMA appreciates that the UK has pledged 100 million vaccine doses, primarily via to the COVAX Facility, which allows countries to pool their vaccine-buying power and negotiate prices collectively, as well as providing a means for fair distribution to the countries most in need.

But ‘more can and must be done’, it urges in its letter to Boris Johnson today.

‘We (…) call on the UK government to make an immediate assessment of how many vaccines are held in surplus over and above the amount needed to complete the planned domestic rollout and accordingly to significantly increase the numbers of vaccines pledged to the COVAX programme.’

The UK has already bought more than 500 million doses, and pledged to deliver a fifth of these overseas, which would leave it with a substantial reserve of vaccine doses. It’s estimated that just 9 million of these have been delivered to date, with only. It’s estimated that just 30 million slated to be by the end of 2021.

World leaders will meet on Wednesday for a virtual Global COVID-19 Summit, a side event to the UN General Assembly.