‘Moral failure’ of leaving Africa unprotected will put rich world at risk from variants, says former PM
Mr Brown said that the gap between vaccine availability in rich and poor countries was “a moral failure on the part of the whole of the world”.
And he said that Europe was “raiding Africa for vaccines” by taking supplies from a production facility in South Africa at a time when hundreds of millions of doses are sitting unused in Western stockpiles or due for delivery over the coming months.
The former Labour PM said that leaders of the G7 group of rich industrialised states – chaired this year by Mr Johnson – had failed at their Cornwall summit in June to deliver on the prime minister’s pledge to vaccinate the whole world by the middle of 2022.
He said they should now meet within the next two weeks to thrash out a plan to get jabs into arms throughout the developing world.
“Seventy per cent of the West has been vaccinated, only 2 per cent in Africa and in all the other low-income countries of the world – so 98 per cent are unprotected,” Mr Brown told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday.
“It’s bad for us, because the disease will come back to haunt us from Africa and hurt even the fully-vaccinated here with new variants.
“There are hundreds of millions of unused vaccines that are either stored or are on order for delivery to Europe and America, including the United Kingdom – 300 million by the end of this month, 500 million by the end of October, a billion by the end of December.
“These vaccines could save thousands of lives in Africa. No issue could save more lives than a policy decision by the richest countries that these surplus unused stockpiled stocks would actually go to the poorest of countries who desperately need them to protect even their nurses and their health workers, who remain unvaccinated against this disease.”
Mr Brown said the onus was on leaders including Mr Johnson to take urgent action.
“They’ve got to call a summit, an emergency summit in the next two weeks,” he said. “They’ve got to deal with this urgent problem that, if left unaddressed, thousands of people are at risk of dying.
“You can’t rely on the IMF and the World Bank and the UN, good as they are. You cannot rely on them. Only the leaders can make these decisions.
“Only the leaders who control the allocation of vaccines in their own countries can decide to transfer them to other countries, or to transfer the options for them.
“So it’s really up to Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Mr Macron in France. These are the leaders that can, by getting together, make a decision. Everybody can contribute, the money can be made available.
“It’s a question of getting the vaccines into the right arms in the right places as quickly as possible. And we are talking about tens of thousands of lives that are at risk now if we do nothing about this.”