Boris Johnson urges world leaders to ‘unite in the fight against disease’ as UK hosts major vaccine summit
Britain is the world’s biggest donor to the Gavi alliance. (Image: PA)
Boris Johnson has urged world leaders to “unite humanity in the fight against disease” as the UK hosts a major international vaccine summit amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Prime Minister will on Thursday lead the charge for a £6bn boost to the Gavi vaccine alliance as he kicks off a virtual gathering of heads of state, private sector and charity leaders.
And he will call on countries to set aside their differences and “inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation“ as the world grapples with Covid-19.
Labour has welcomed the push - but urged more action from the Government to ensure developing countries are not “priced out” of any coronavirus vaccine.
The Global Vaccine Summit is aiming to raise at least £6bn for the Gavi alliance, which was set up in 2000 as a tie-up between governments and the private sector.
The latest initiative aims to immunise 300 million more children in the world’s poorest countries by 2025.
The move will, Number 10 says, not only shield children from diseases like measles and polio but “help ensure our global recovery from coronavirus” by allowing the world’s poorest countries to better cope with the pandemic and prevent the onwards spread of the disease.
The UK has already pledged £1.65bn over the next five years to the global vaccines push, and committed £388m specifically to the international hunt for a Covid-19 vaccine at a separate pledging conference last month.
Opening the summit, Mr Johnson is expected to say: “I hope this summit will be the moment when the world comes together to unite humanity in the fight against disease.
“Just as the UK is the single biggest donor to the international effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, we will remain the world’s leading donor to Gavi, contributing £1.65 billion over the next five years.
“I urge you to join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes.”
Mr Johnson will also be joined at the summit by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
Ms Trevelyan said: “The world is quite rightly focusing on responding to the invisible killer that is coronavirus. But we cannot allow this pandemic to disrupt routine immunisation in some of the world’s poorest countries and cause other deadly diseases to spread across the globe.
“We know vaccines work, which is why at today’s summit we need others to step up and pledge funds to Gavi, so it can continue to save the lives of millions of children and protect everyone from infectious diseases.”
Shadow International Development Secretary Preet Kaur Gill said the Gavi initiative had so far “saved millions of lives and we should all rightly be proud of the impact of UK aid on tackling extreme poverty and addressing inequality”.
“However there are areas that the UK, as one of the major donors, has been too quiet on,” the Labour frontbencher told PoliticsHome.
And she added: “The Government should use this summit to review the eligibility criteria and take steps to reach the millions of children who still do not receive routine vaccinations.
“The Secretary of State, despite rhetoric about supporting universal, equitable access to vaccines, has outsourced her responsibilities to multilateral institutions and funds rather than taking a leading role on the global stage.
“With a new facility set to be launched at Gavi, the COVAX Facility, the Secretary of State could show she is serious by attaching conditions to any UK public money committed to it to guarantee transparency and ensure that people are not priced out of a future Covid-19 vaccine."