By locking in advanced deals, the government is contributing to a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism by richer nations.
Public health campaigners warn the government’s latest deal to secure advanced supplies of potential Covid-19 vaccines for the UK will fuel the global scramble to hoard vaccines by rich countries.
The government’s deals with Novavax and Janssen to purchase 90 million doses of a potential vaccine on a UK-first basis undermines global efforts to ensure fair and world-wide access to Covid-19 vaccines.
By locking in advanced deals, the government is contributing to a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism by richer nations. The UK is racing ahead, along with the US and EU to secure doses of potential vaccines across different vaccine candidates. These bilateral deals will reduce the initial global vaccine stocks available for vulnerable groups in poorer countries and undermine global efforts to ensure fair allocation.
Heidi Chow, from Global Justice Now, said: “This latest vaccine deal shows the government's complete disregard for its own claims about supporting equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines.
"This UK-first approach is fuelling vaccine nationalism as rich countries scramble to hoard vaccine supplies leaving poorer countries without.
"The fastest way to end this pandemic is through global collaboration. The government should work with other countries and support a global fair allocation process based on public health needs so that all vulnerable groups are immunised first, wherever they live."
Diarmaid McDonald, from Just Treatment, said: “Instead of accelerating an arms race for access to Covid-19 tools by competing with other countries to get preferential access to potential vaccines, the UK should be taking a collaborative approach. This kind of Covid nationalism, combined with unjustifiable big pharma monopolies, puts lives at risk - including those of NHS patients and staff."
McDonald continued: "The UK Government must urgently change tact and support the WHO Covid Technology Pool so we can speed up collaborative research and prevent the supply and affordability issues that arise from monopolies on medicines.
"The government should be using its investments in Covid-19 vaccine research and development to make sure that everyone gets fair and affordable access to a vaccine, instead of sparking a race that patients will lose as big pharma profit.”
Saoirse Fitzpatrick, from STOPAIDS, said: "Despite the rhetoric from the UK Government that they are not practicing vaccine nationalism and that they want fair and equal distribution of future vaccines across the world, we are yet to see any concrete actions to this end.
"If we want to manage this pandemic successfully the UK Government need to be championing global collaboration and coordination. This means supporting international efforts to facilitate the sharing of research data to speed the vaccine discovery process up and ensure that patent monopolies do not drive up the prices of these vaccines and cause supply shortages.
"These steps would reduce risk and ensure there was adequate vaccine doses available to those most in need across the world, including in the UK. The UK Government supported the World Health Assembly on the Covid Response which called for any Covid vaccines to be considered ‘a public good’, that commitment needs to be the driving force behind the UK’s actions."
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Global Justice Now.