The government has ditched its pledge to deliver 100 million surplus Covid vaccines to poor countries following cuts to international aid spending.
Boris Johnson promised to “vaccinate the world” at a G7 meeting last year, but barely a third of the promised jabs have actually been delivered.
Figures published by the government show that ministers have effectively charged developing countries for the leftover jabs by deducting them from existing aid, and even added a mark-up on the UK’s original purchase price.
The backdrop to the failure to deliver is a stark vaccine divide across the world, with just one in five Africans having received a single dose compared to 65 per cent of all people worldwide.
Labour accused the government of “profiteering” from the pandemic because ministers have counted each vaccine as £4.50 of aid spending, despite paying just £2.30 for doses in the first place, according to the British Medical Journal – a mark-up of 95 per cent.
As a result of this accounting, the government has been able to mark down more than £100m from the aid budget by donating the vaccines the UK had no use for.
Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s shadow international development secretary, said it was “indefensible” for the government’s cuts to be landing on the world’s poorest.
“Once again, this prime minister chases headlines then drastically under-delivers,” she told The Independent.
“Last year Boris Johnson stood up in parliament and promised his government would share vaccines with poorer countries to help us beat the pandemic as quickly as possible, and that he wouldn’t raid the aid budget to pay for vaccines we had going spare.
“Now we learn that not only has he broken his promise, but his government has also profiteered off the pandemic by doubling the price of vaccines for the poorest countries in the world. In the middle of a global crisis, with food prices skyrocketing, it is indefensible for the government to balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest people.”