Boris Johnson is being challenged to “do the right thing” and help ensure the world’s poorest nations can produce Covid vaccines.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford demanded the prime minister “stop blocking” the vaccine intellectual property waiver – even if only on a temporary basis – so that developing nations can manufacture vaccines themselves.
He raised the issue in a letter to Johnson, stressing that there needs to be a “truly effective global vaccine strategy” if coronavirus is to be defeated.
While the UK is rolling out booster vaccines to the population, the proportion of those in the developing world who have been jabbed is much lower.
At the end of November it was reported some 54.2 per cent of the global population had had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine – but in low-income countries this falls to just 5.8 per cent.
‘Do the right thing’
Blackford insisted: “We will not defeat this virus if developing nations are left to rely on vaccine donations alone – especially considering the UK has only donated six million out of a pledged 100 million to the Covax initiative.
“All countries must have the tools to allow them to produce Covid vaccines on home soil and ramp up production if we are to have a truly effective global vaccine strategy. That means ensuring they have access to the vaccine patents.
“So I am urging Boris Johnson to do the right thing and stop blocking the vaccine intellectual property waiver – at least temporarily – to allow developing nations to manufacture the vaccines themselves.”
The SNP Westminster leader insisted: “This is a matter of global leadership, and with over 100 states, including the USA supporting the proposal, it is clear the UK is becoming increasingly isolated in blocking the waiver to support access to vaccines around the world.
“Indeed, it is the least the government can do after it brutally slashed aid and hindered humanitarian projects around the world.
“The emergence of the new Omicron variant has shown us that, until we achieve vaccine equality, new variants could continue to appear.
“Therefore, it is in everybody’s interests that we share vaccine patents – it will be an essential step in beating Covid-19.”
Oxfam Scotland welcomed Ian Blackford’s letter to the Prime Minister.
Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “It’s hugely significant that the SNP’s Westminster Leader has answered our call, by adding his voice, to the growing chorus of those who are demanding urgent action to stop pharmaceutical companies from artificially rationing global vaccine supply, by holding lifesaving vaccine recipes and technologies hostage.
“Vaccine inequality is both morally wrong and it places people across Scotland at additional risk from the emergence of dangerous new variants, like Omicron, with epidemiologists warning all along that no one is safe until we all are.
“The UK government is looking more and more isolated as it continues to stubbornly stand on the wrong side of history by choosing to put protecting patents and big pharma’s profits above saving people’s lives.
“The prime minister must now act: a failure to do so would be short-sighted, self-defeating and shameful.”
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister has been clear that no-one is safe until we are all safe. The UK has been a world leader in ensuring developing countries can access vaccines, through our early support to the Covax scheme and commitment to donate surplus vaccines.
“We are on track to meet our goal of donating 30 million doses by the end of this year, and more next year. We have donated 23 million doses already, of which 18.5 million have gone to Covax to distribute to developing countries.
“The UK is engaging constructively in the Trips waiver debate at the World Trade Organisation and we continue to be open to all ideas that have a positive impact on vaccine production and distribution.”