llowing poorer countries to remain unvaccinated is a “reckless approach to public health”, meaning coronavirus variants are more likely to develop, scientists have warned the Government
A letter signed by more than 300 experts, including 13 members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in a personal capacity, says vaccinating most of the world’s population is “the best way” to prevent coronavirus mutations.
It says vaccines will “not be effective” at stopping new variants unless the UK ensures more people in poorer countries are jabbed.
The letter reads: “Allowing huge numbers of people in low- and middle-income countries to remain unvaccinated is a reckless approach to public health that creates conditions where new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern are more likely to develop.
“Indeed, the Omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa, on a continent in which fewer than one in ten are fully vaccinated.
“Thanks to remarkable scientific innovations, we have a number of vaccines that remain highly effective against all known Covid-19 variants.
“Yet, unless we share this technology with the world and increase global vaccination coverage, vaccines will not be effective at stopping new variants of concern.
“We must use and expand domestic vaccine manufacturing and distribution capacity within low and middle-income countries.”
The experts urge Boris Johnson to put public health before the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry “to prevent another year of uncertainty and tragedy”.
The Prime Minister is also urged to support international efforts to suspend intellectual property rules that stop lower-income nations from manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
The scientific evidence has been clear since the start of the pandemic that the best way to keep ourselves and our NHS safe from new variants is to vaccinate the world
NHS England said: “Throughout this pandemic, the Government has pledged that it will follow the science.
“The scientific evidence has been clear since the start of the pandemic that the best way to keep ourselves and our NHS safe from new variants is to vaccinate the world.
“However laudable donations of vaccines might be, they will never be enough to end the pandemic.
“There is untapped manufacturing capacity in the very nations that need vaccines and treatments most. For the sake of people’s lives in those countries and our own, we must use it.”
A fellow at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and an adviser to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also signed the letter.
A Government spokesperson said: “The UK is working to ensure developing countries can access Covid-19 vaccines.
“Our significant early commitment to Covax has already helped to deliver more than one billion doses to developing countries, while we continue to donate our own domestic surplus.
“We recognise and share concerns regarding the level of vaccination in some parts of the world, and we are working on tackling the underlying issues including manufacturing and supply constraints, pressure on health systems, and vaccine confidence.”