Campaigners warn that UK government is racing ahead with vaccine nationalism

Monday, 20 July, 2020

Public health and social justice organisations have warned that the government’s 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 deal to purchase 90 million doses of potential vaccines from BioNtech/Pfizer and Valneva for the UK, threatens global efforts for fair and world-wide access to Covid-19 vaccines.

By locking in advanced deals with the pharmaceutical company, the government is contributing to a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism by richer nations. This will not only reduce the global vaccine stocks available for vulnerable groups in poorer countries but it also undermines global efforts to coordinate vaccine supplies to ensure priority groups in every country are vaccinated first.

Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now:

“This UK-first approach exposes the government’s rhetoric on equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines as mere lip-service. Buying up advanced supplies of unproven vaccines encourages other rich countries to do the same which will ultimately leave poorer countries without. The only way to beat this pandemic is through collaboration rather than competition and the government should be supporting global fair allocation based on public health need rather than wealth.”

Roz Scourse, MSF Access Campaign:

“This deal is the UK’s latest attempt to get first access to Covid-19 vaccines. Access to a successful vaccine should not be determined on who can pay the most, but on health needs and should prioritise health care workers and vulnerable populations worldwide. Despite what the UK has been saying about the need to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines globally, what these secretive deals will actually do is use up initial supplies of vaccines, undermining allocation according to need. The UK should act on their words and commit to working with the World Health Organization to ensure those who need it most get these vaccines first, wherever they live.”

Diarmaid McDonald, Just Treatment:

“By funding the development of Covid-19 vaccine candidates, the UK is investing in absolutely critical medical innovation. But in the rush to respond to the pandemic we must not forget to safeguard fair and affordable access to these vaccines.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of UK taxpayer money is being handed to big pharmaceutical companies in secret Covid-19 vaccine deals. It is crucial that conditions are attached to these agreements to guarantee affordable prices both during and post the pandemic. That means we need transparency over the terms of the deals we’re funding, and control over the monopoly rights to the vaccines. Otherwise we’re handing a blank cheque to big pharma and allowing them to charge us what they want.”

James Cole, STOPAIDS:

“Wealthy countries are pushing themselves to the front of the queue for vaccines. This nationalistic deal ignores the international collaboration and solidarity needed to ensure equitable access to vaccines and end the pandemic. A recent YouGov poll found the UK public overwhelmingly support equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Governments must put their focus on how to work with the World Health Organisation to avoid a future scenario in which there is starkly unequal access to a vaccine across the world and where healthcare workers in the poorest communities are left unprotected.”


Photo: Covid-19 outbreak map per capita as of 20 July 2020/ Wikipedia