Vaccine apartheid: Research suggests UK will hoard up to 210 million vaccines

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Aug 10, 2021, 01:50 PM IST

The Sheba medical centre in Israel published a preliminary study on Monday that found that the fourth shot increases antibodies even higher than the third, although not to the point where it can completely protect against the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Photograph:(AFP)

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Airfinity, a life science analytics company, found that the United Kingdom currently has 467 million vaccines on order, far more than the 95 million coronavirus vaccines it needs

The UK will be hoarding up to 210 million spare coronavirus vaccines by the year-end, research suggests, as ministers are accused of leaving poorer countries "fighting for scraps".

Airfinity, a life science analytics company, found that 467 million vaccines are currently on order, with 306 million due to be delivered to the UK by the end of 2021.

Surprisingly, to comply with the expected demand, only around 95 million vaccinations will be needed. This includes doses needed both to vaccinate everyone over 16 and to give the vulnerable a booster in autumn.

Considering that the average adult vaccination rate is currently over 80 per cent, if the same level of enrollment is maintained for those eligible, that will result in a surplus of 210 million vaccines. The figure would still be 186m even if take-up increases to 100 per cent.

As the UK opposes a temporary waiver of the COVID-19 vaccine's intellectual property rights, the government faces increasing pressure to do more to aid nations where only a small number of people have received a vaccine.

According to the global advocacy group Global Justice Now, which compiled the statistics, leftover vaccines could provide vaccinations for about 211 million people living in the ten least vaccinated countries in the world.

Talking to the Guardian Nick Dearden, director of the organisation, says that the UK's expansion of vaccine coverage and preparation to vaccinate teenagers were insults to low- and middle-income countries which were left "fighting for scraps".

The UK's actions to "obstruct" a temporary waiver of patent rights on Coronavirus vaccines made the problem even more problematic, he said.

In October 2020, India and South Africa filed a bid for this at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was then subsequently backed by the US, France, and Italy.

Minutes of the WTO meeting discussing the proposal concluded that there was still disagreement regarding the appropriate and most effective way to address shortages and inequitable access to vaccines, and a decision will now be delayed until October 2021.

In a statement, a government spokesperson said that the UK is committed to supporting global progress towards combating the COVID-19 pandemic and improving vaccine access.

The spokesperson added that UK's pledge to donate 100 million vaccine doses by June 2022 is underway, with the first deliveries started last week.