Health organisations call for accelerated action on global vaccine equity

Joint statement from the BMA and other organisations regarding global vaccine equity.

Location: UK International
Published: Thursday 23 December 2021
Syringe filled with vaccine

We, the undersigned and the organisations we represent, express our deep concern at the ongoing inequity in access to Covid-19 vaccines globally. In addition to the strong moral imperative, failure to ensure high vaccine coverage in all countries puts everyone at risk from new, potentially vaccine resistant variants of the virus.

Ninety-eight of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable low income and middle income countries will now miss WHO’s end of year target for vaccinating 40% of their populations. It was within our gift as high-income countries to make this happen. Yet too many nations have been shamefully slow in making good on their pledges – the UK among them.

We are appalled that the world’s richest countries continue to accumulate surplus vaccine doses while the world’s poorest struggle with woefully inadequate supplies. The total number of vaccines administered worldwide in the past year was more than sufficient to cover 40% of the population in all countries, if it had been delivered equitably. Instead, only 1 in 10 people in low-income countries and just 25% of healthcare workers in Africa have received a single dose.

As organisations representing healthcare professionals, we are deeply concerned by this lack of progress on sharing vaccines for the global good. We call on the UK to show true leadership by raising its ambition and commitment to expedite vaccines reaching those most in need. Actions to support this should include increasing the UK’s overall commitment to COVAX, as well as urgently swapping places with COVAX in vaccine manufacturing and delivery queues. To help ensure transparency, we urge the Government to publish a schedule for reallocation of doses to support COVAX, in line with the Joint Statement on Dose Donations of COVID-19 Vaccines to African Countries.

We further urge the UK Government to join the US and other World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in supporting a TRIPS waiver at the WTO during this global crisis. While the waiver is essential to simplify and accelerate production of vaccines in and for the Global South, it must also be accompanied by support for knowledge and technology transfer to rapidly increase manufacturing capacity.

The UK is a global frontrunner on vaccine acquisition and rollout, and must now lead by example to help protect vulnerable populations globally as well as our own population from future variants. It is imperative that the UK Government strongly encourage other G7 and G20 countries to increase their commitments to global vaccine equity.

  • Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of Council, BMA (British Medical Association)
  • Christina McAnea, General Secretary, Unison
  • Dr Andrew Goddard, President, Royal College of Physicians (RCP)
  • Professor Maggie Rae, President, Faculty of Public Health (FPH)
  • Dr Ranee Thakar, Senior Vice President for Global Health, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)