UK to donate 100 million Covid vaccines to countries within weeks, PM announces

10 June 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 11 June 2021, 08:10

The PM has pledged 100 million spare vaccine doses at least
The PM has pledged 100 million spare vaccine doses at least. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

The UK will donate the first of at least 100 million surplus coronavirus vaccines to other countries within weeks, Boris Johnson has announced.

Ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, the Prime Minister said that the full amount of jabs will be distributed over the next year.

The seven leading industrialised nations are poised to agree to providing a billion doses before 2022 to help bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wealthy nations, which have vaccinated their populations much quicker than less-developed parts of the world, have been encouraged to do more.

Experts stress the importance of rolling out vaccines globally to save lives in poorer nations and prevent new variants developing.

"Since the start of this pandemic the UK has led the way in efforts to protect humanity against this deadly disease,” Mr Johnson said.

"Over a year ago we funded the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the basis it would be distributed at cost to the world.

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"This unprecedented model, which puts people squarely above profit, means over half a billion doses have been administered in 160 countries so far.

"As a result of the success of the UK's vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them.

"In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good."

Mr Johnson's plan will see the UK give out five million doses before October and 25 million before the end of the year.

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He said he hoped the rest of the G7 leaders would make similar pledges – though he has been beaten to it by US President Joe Biden.

He has already promised to donate half a billion Pfizer jabs to 92 low and lower middle-income countries and the African Union.

About a fifth of the UK's donated jabs will be given out through agreements made with countries while the rest will be distributed through the Covax scheme, which gets jabs to poorer nations.

LBC's Ben Kentish previews the G7 summit in Cornwall

Downing Street said the donations will not affect the UK's own vaccination programme, which has seen more than 40 million first jabs given out and over 28 million second doses distributed.

It comes despite criticism for cuts to the UK's foreign aid budget, down from the legal target of 0.7% of national income - but the Government is counting vaccine doses as contributing to its overseas assistance.

The G7, which includes the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy, will also set out a plan to expand vaccine manufacturing.

Read more: Boris Johnson and President Biden meet ahead of G7 summit

Mr Johnson will encourage pharmaceutical companies to provide vaccines at cost for the rest of the pandemic, as happened with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, also known as Janssen, have already pledged to share 1.3 billion doses on a non-profit basis with developing countries.

The UK is also considering if it can give vaccines to delegates ahead of the November Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.