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Failure to vaccinate the rest of the world could threaten us all

Written by on 19 February 2021

We are all asking the question when are we going to get vaccinated, but the key question is when is everyone else?

While the virus remains out there, it continues mutating with the possibility a new coronavirus variant is spawned that sends us back to square one.

Much of this G7 meeting was dominated by commitments to COVAX – the joint effort to distribute the vaccine to poorer and middle income countries. You would expect as much from seven of the world’s richest nations.

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Boris Johnson speaks to world leaders

While Russia and China have been using their vaccines to promote their best interests round the world in what has been called “vaccine diplomacy”, the west has seemed more preoccupied with jabbing its own and putting its hopes in COVAX to make sure the rest of the world is vaccinated, eventually.

America has promised COVAX $4bn (£2.6bn), the EU has doubled its contribution to €1bn (£864k). The UK has pledged more than £500m although it is also slashing its overseas aid budget which is not going to help poorer countries fight the pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron told the meeting that if the west does not starting shipping COVID vaccines to Africa, Russia and China will. Upstaging the prime minister at his own meeting President Macron has suggested every wealthy nation donates 5% of its vaccine stockpile to COVAX now.

Africa needs 13 million doses to vaccinate its healthcare workers, he told world leaders. Western prestige was at stake he said. “The strength of the west will be a concept and not a reality”.

Boris Johnson has instead vowed to give most of Britain’s vaccines surplus to COVAX but only once every British adult has been jabbed. How much of that surplus would be donated and exactly when is not yet clear from the government.

But the prime minister may come under increasing pressure to clarify what more Britain can do to help ensure the rest of the world is vaccinated as well as populations in richer nations.

The French president may be preoccupied with how the developing world perceives the west and the risk of being outflanked by Russia and China. But there is a more pressing need for poorer countries to be inoculated against this threat as fast as the rest of us.

Densely populated under developed nations may be more fertile spawning grounds for new variants. Stamping out the virus there is just as important as it is closer to home to avert the risk of vaccine-busting new strains of the virus emerging which could threaten us all.