The leaders of the seven biggest Western economies need to meet in the next two weeks to arrange for millions of vaccine doses to be sent to Africa to stop COVID returning to “haunt” their countries, Gordon Brown has said.
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown says new variants like Delta could emerge and head to the West unless vaccination rates in Africa are improved.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme up to a billion doses ordered in Europe and North America will become available by December that should be used in African countries.
And he said it wouldn’t mean that over-12s in the UK would have to go without if jabs are offered to them – nor would it affect the booster programme.
He added: “70% of the West has been vaccinated, only 2% in Africa and the other low-income countries of the world. So, 98% are unprotected.
“It’s bad for them, 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.”
He said Europe had in fact been “raiding Africa for vaccines” in recent weeks by requesting the export of doses produced by a facility in South Africa.
He added: “We are doing the worst possible thing when it comes to making the world safer against COVID. If we leave these people unprotected, if it spreads uninhibited, it will come back to us.”
He called an urgent G7 meeting on the fringes of the next UN General Assembly, which opens on 14 September, to address global vaccination.
“They’ve got to deal with this urgent problem,” he said. “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.
“It’s a question of getting the vaccines into the right arms in the right place 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.
“You’ll find African leaders will be demanding it too.”
He said failure to do so would be a moral failure on the part of the world.
Mr Brown added: “Faith and church leaders know that this vaccine divide between vaccine rich and vaccine poor is really a terrible stain.
“It’s a moral failure on the part of the whole of the world.”
His calls were echoed by Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
He told Sky News: “It’s fundamentally in Britain’s interest to make sure vaccinations are rolled out as quickly as possible around the world, for the very simple reason that we know about all these variants that are coming around the corner… no doubt there’ll be many other variants… and the faster we vaccinate, the fewer develop variants and the less likely there is of (a risk of) subsequent cross infection in the UK.”