Britain should consider sharing coronavirus jabs with poorer countries on a “one-for-one” basis once it has vaccinated the highest risk groups, an expert has suggested.
Jane Halton, co-chairwoman of the Covax initiative – which is working to provide vaccines for low and middle-income countries – said it is time for a “fair and sensible conversation” about the sharing of vaccines.
Pointing to Norway, which has committed to share its jabs on a one-for-one basis, she said: “That is a pretty good model.”
She suggested that once the highest risk groups are vaccinated, the Government should consider sharing its supply in a similar fashion when vaccinating the under-50s.
She told Times Radio the decisions made by political leaders in the coming weeks will “determine whether we actually get the whole world out of this terrible mess”.
Asked about the growing gap between the rich and poor world when it comes to vaccines, she said: “I don’t know that I’ve actually got to the point of outrage yet but I would say a high level of anxiety and concern.
“We are on the cusp of doing the right thing or the wrong thing and decisions that we make in the next few weeks and months will determine whether we actually get the whole world out of this terrible mess, and not just the high-income countries.
“We must make sure we get sufficient vaccine to those countries around the world who need it, who can then actually vaccinate their vulnerable populations, so we can bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end.
“And we’ve already seen challenges with export of vaccines from a number of countries. If that continues and Covax cannot deliver on its promise of two billion doses to that Gavi 92 (the low and middle-income countries eligible to get access to vaccines through Covax) but also to other countries who’ve ordered, then we will not be able to achieve our objective.
“And that’s why having a fair and sensible conversation about sharing vaccine is really critical.”
She warned Covax is still on a “knife edge” to make sure it can meet its objectives.
“What we have now is a product which is in extremely short supply – that supply will increase in time and we’re all looking forward to that,” she said.
“But at the moment, this is a very, very scarce resource, and countries are saying, ‘well actually, I don’t want this substance exported until my domestic needs are met’, and we all accept that there is a need to meet the needs of individual people in countries we all get that, but we also have to share.
“The Norwegians have agreed to share one for one. And I think that’s a pretty good model.
“Are there countries around the world who have a disaster literally unfolding? And with the provision of sometimes small numbers of vaccines, could we prevent significant numbers of deaths?
“So I would encourage all countries to think quite deeply about whether or not sharing, and you wouldn’t stop vaccinating people for example under the age of 50, but you might say, one for us and one for the global pot.”