Boris Johnson: UK will donate most of its surplus vaccines to poorer countries

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BORIS Johnson will today pledge to donate most of Britain’s surplus coronavirus jags to poorer countries as he rallies world leaders to back his plan to cut the time it takes to develop new vaccines by two-thirds to just 100 days.

Chairing a virtual teleconference meeting of the first G7 leaders’ meeting of the UK’s presidency, the Prime Minister will call on them to use their countries’ “collective ingenuity” and support efforts to speed up the development of not just new vaccines but also treatments and tests.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson said: “Perhaps more than ever, the hopes of the world rest on the shoulders of scientists and over the last year, like countless times before, they have risen to the challenge.

“The development of viable coronavirus vaccines offers the tantalising prospect of a return to normality but we must not rest on our laurels. As leaders of the G7 we must say today: never again.

“By harnessing our collective ingenuity, we can ensure we have the vaccines, treatments and tests to be battle-ready for future health threats as we beat Covid-19 and build back better together,” he added.

Mr Johnson also confirmed the UK will share the majority of any of its future surplus coronavirus vaccines with the international Covax procurement pool to support developing countries. This will come in addition to the UK’s £548 million funding for the scheme.

It is expected that any UK vaccine surplus will be able to be identified later on in the year. It will be dependent on continued supply chain reliability and whether or not new vaccines might be needed for variant strains or as a booster dose in the autumn. However, Government sources have indicated that well over 50% of excess doses will go to Covax.

The PM will be encouraging other G7 leaders – representing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA – to increase their funding for Covax in support of the “equitable access to vaccines”.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, has been tasked to work with international partners, including the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations[CEPI] together with industry and scientific experts to advise the G7 on speeding up the process for developing vaccines, treatments and tests for common pathogens.

Downing St stressed how the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in approximately 300 days was a “huge and unprecedented global achievement”. It said by reducing the time to develop new vaccines for emerging diseases even further, it may be possible to prevent the catastrophic health, economic and social repercussions seen in this current crisis. No 10 noted how the 100-day ambition was proposed by CEPI earlier this year. It took 314 days to develop the Pfizer vaccine.

It noted how through international collaboration to intensify research and development, modernise medical trials and create more innovative vaccine manufacturing and supply chains, it will be possible to save lives in future health crises and prevent the next pandemic.

Downing St emphasised how delivering on the objectives in Mr Johnson’s Five Point Plan to Prevent Future Pandemics – first set out at the UN last year – will be a key focus of the UK’s G7 presidency this year.

The PM, it said, would also be calling on G7 leaders to support a treaty on pandemic preparedness through the WHO.

Today’s virtual meeting will be the first hosted by the PM as part of the UK’s G7 Presidency this year and the first gathering of G7 leaders since April 2020.

At the meeting leaders are expected to confirm their support for the UK’s G7 health priorities and discuss wider efforts to address global challenges and secure a sustainable, green economic recovery from coronavirus, as well as a number of foreign policy issues.

Britain will also host a number of meetings throughout the year between Government ministers from the G7, both virtually and in different locations across the UK, covering economic, environmental, health, trade, technology, development and foreign policy issues.

The main physical summit of G7 leaders will take place from June 11 to 13 in Cardis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall. Leaders from Australia, India, South Korea and the EU will also attend the event as guests.

Officials believe that will be able to go ahead in person, although it will be scaled-back compared to previous G7 meetings as a result of coronavirus.

Huge efforts are being devoted to the arrangements with officials working with Public Health England to ensure it will be safe. A rigorous testing regime and a system of “bubbles” are likely to be used to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As well as hosting the G7 summit, this month the UK assumed the rotating monthlong Presidency of the UN Security Council, in November it will host the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow and will also in July co-host alongside Kenya a global education conference aimed at getting children in the developing world into school.

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