PM defends G7 pledge to give 1bn vaccines to the world’s poorest countries

13 June 2021, 15:18 | Updated: 13 June 2021, 19:55

Boris Johnson said G7 nations are going as fast as they can to distribute jabs worldwide
Boris Johnson said G7 nations are going as fast as they can to distribute jabs worldwide. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson has defended a plan agreed by G7 nations to supply a billion Covid jabs to poorer countries after it was criticised by charities as a "moral failure" which will not match demand.

The Prime Minister told a news conference at the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall: "This is another billion made up of a massive contribution by the United States and other friends."

He said the UK's contribution is another 100 million vaccines between now an dnext June.

Mr Johnson added: "Already of the 1.5 billion vaccines that have been distributed around the world, I think that people in this country should be very proud that half a billion of them are as a result of the actions taken by the UK Government in doing that deal with the Oxford scientists and AstraZeneca to distribute it at cost."

He said that "we are going flat out and we are producing vaccines as fast as we can, and distributing them as fast as we can".

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The target to vaccinate the world by the end of next year will be done "very largely thanks to the efforts of the countries who have come here today", according to Mr Johnson.

The PM has had to fend off accusations that the UK is reducing its commitments to helping less developed nations, having recently managed to avoid a potential Tory rebellion in the Commons over cuts to foreign aid.

The Government is slashing the budget from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% but believes its contribution to global vaccinations boosts the actual figure.

He rejected the idea that cutting aid spending left him without "moral authority" to persuade the other G7 members to provide more vaccines to poorer countries.

"I obviously reject that outright because the UK has given £1.6 billion to Gavi [the Vaccine Alliance], £548 million to Covax and half a billion vaccines that are being distributed around the world," Mr Johnson said.

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"The point you just raised with me has not been raised by anybody else, any other international leader, let alone the leader of any recipient country, because they know that the UK is one of the biggest donors in the world.

"They know that in spite of the global pandemic, in spite of having to spend £407 billion supporting jobs and families and livelihoods in this country, we are spending £10 billion supporting the poorest and the neediest."

His comments follow a G7 that, besides coronavirus vaccines and recovery from the pandemic, was also dominated by discussions on climate action.

The "sausage war" with the EU also featured. The UK wants to ensure it can move goods like certain meats to Northern Ireland easily while the bloc is concerned if sufficient checks aren't applied, products could move into its single market.

Northern Ireland has to continue following some EU rules after Brexit while Britain does not.

Boris Johnson said earlier in the summit that European leaders needed to view the UK as a single country.

French president Emmanuel Macron told a G7 press conference: "I'm doing things very calmly.

"I believe that as far as this subject matter is concerned everybody has got to come back to reason.

"My wish, my will is that we succeed - we succeed collectively - to put into operation what we decided upon a few months ago."