OXFORD, England (Reuters) – British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned that the world would not be adequately vaccinated until 2024 unless other countries joined Britain in donating shots to poorer nations, an effort that could bring that date forward to the middle of next year.
Britain pledged to donate 100 million vaccines when it hosted the Group of Seven summit earlier this year, sending them directly to countries in need or through the COVAX scheme which ensures equitable, global access to shots.
U.S. President Joe Biden said at the summit in Cornwall, England, that the United States would buy and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to more than 90 countries.
Raab told Reuters on Wednesday that Britain, which has fully vaccinated 71% of its adults, was ready to begin delivering 9 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines this week to countries including Indonesia, Jamaica and Kenya.
“We know on the current trajectory, the world will only be adequately vaccinated at 2024, at the end,” he told Reuters at the Oxford Biomedica factory. “We want to get that date back to the middle of next year and that will make a massive difference to those countries affected.”
Britain will in general give 20% of its shots directly and 80% via COVAX, a scheme which Raab praised as giving “the poorest, most vulnerable countries around the world” the vaccines they need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped through the global economy, with infections reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019. More than 4.3 million people have died.
It has also sparked a race for countries to inoculate their citizens and rebuild their economies.
“We know we won’t be safe until everyone is safe,” Raab said.
“It is in all our interests. It is a moral duty, but it is also our direct interest in the UK so we can open up and so we can have more travel for business purposes and holidays and also to protect ourselves from further waves of the virus or variants in the future.”
For the 9 million donations, some 5 million doses will be offered to COVAX while another 4 million will be shared directly with countries including Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle; writing by Kate Holton; Editing by Bernadette Baum)