Gordon Brown: Failure to distribute vaccines to poorer countries ‘stain on our soul’

‘A huge moral lapse on the part of the world,’ former PM says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 23 December 2021 08:56
Failure to distribute vaccines to poorer countries a ‘huge moral lapse’, says Gordon Brown

The failure to distribute vaccines to poorer countries is a “stain on our global soul” and one of the “greatest policy failures of our times”, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned.

He made his intervention after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that countries’ “blanket booster programmes” were likely to prolong the pandemic by diverting supplies to wealthier nations.

Speaking to the BBC, the former Labour prime minister predicted that the uneven distribution of vaccines could cause millions to die worldwide due to lack of access to jabs.

“It really is a stain on our global soul and it affects us all because I think people are beginning to realise that if we allow the disease to spread in poor countries and the virus mutates, it comes back to haunt even the fully-vaccinated,” Mr Brown said.

Arguing it was an achievable task, he said: “We have the technology, we have the expertise and we’re producing 1.5 billion vaccines now a month. We could get them out to people and we will suffer if we don’t do this.”

In a separate interview with US broadcaster CNN, Mr Brown said: “We end the year with a huge pubic policy failure – a huge moral lapse on the part of the world.

“Only three per cent are vaccinated in low-income countries, only seven or eight per cent in Africa as a whole, and there are some countries where less than one per cent have been vaccinated.

“It’s hardly surprising then that the disease spreads, that it mutates, that new variants emerge, and then these new variants as we’ve seen in the UK and around Europe and America now, this is coming back to haunt us now in the western world.”

Speaking on Wednesday, the WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that “no country could booster its way out of the pandemic” as he criticised the inequitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

“Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” he stressed.

He stressed the “global priority” must be to ensure all countries reach 40 per cent vaccine coverage “as quickly as possible and the 70 per cent target by the middle of this year”.

He added: “Our projections show that supply should be sufficient to vaccinate the entire global adult population and to give boosters to high-risk populations by the first quarter of 2022.”

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