But many have warned the measure will do little to combat immediate shortages, instead pointing to voluntary licensing and technology transfer as a better solution.
Others have also urged wealthy countries to stop “hoarding” vaccines – Unicef estimates, for example, that the UK has secured one in every 25 vaccines forecast to be supplied in 2021,
Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union’s vaccine delivery alliance, said: “The promise to share IP patent waivers is a powerful signal of intent from some of the world’s richest countries but will not alone be enough to stop the inexorable march of this microbe around the world,” she said.
“These welcome declarations of intent do not take away from the fact that many of these same countries continue to hoard vaccines, and production is not a quick fix but a medium to long-term solution.
“The answer to today’s scarcity is, therefore, to share vaccines, and to share them now,” Dr Alakija said, adding that supply issues mean Africa is not set to receive more vaccines via the global Covax vaccine sharing initiative until at least June.
According to Unicef and Airfinity the UK, for instance, has plenty to share to help combat these shortages, which could see people across the globe unable to receive a second shot within the recommended time frame.
The analysis suggests that once every adult in the UK has been vaccinated and booster shots have been given to high-risk groups, the UK would still have enough surplus doses to fully vaccinate roughly 50 million people worldwide – rising to 115 million if all vaccines currently in phase three trials are approved.
For comparison, the Covax scheme has delivered just 59 million doses across the globe to date, and less than two per cent of the world’s Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across Africa.
“We can’t ignore that the UK and other G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population,” said Joanna Rea, director of advocacy at Unicef UK, adding that the G7 summit is a “crucial opportunity” for the world’s leading democracies to take action.
“With France committing to share five per cent of vaccines and the US pledging 60 million AstraZeneca doses, our analysis shows that the UK Government can go further and faster by building on its surplus dose sharing pledge and committing to sharing 20 per cent of its available doses from June through Covax,” she said.
Dr Alakija added that acting now would help prevent other nations witnessing the devastation unfolding in India.
“High income countries must start sharing doses in significant numbers with the low and middle income countries that are now bracing for the next wave of the pandemic,” she said.
“They must also yield their place in the vaccine manufacturing queue to enable equity in the distribution, and to prevent variants from rolling back the progress of the past few months. Who knows, in future months and years they may need the same concessions.”
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